Poetry Stuff and Publishing Stuff

I came across a great title for a poem this week:

When the Power Failed We Went Swimming in the Dark.

I know! Brilliant! If I just had a poem to go with the title – it would be perfect.  One of the many things we discussed at the workshop was how to come up with things to write about.  Its a common problem for writers – where to start.  The title above is a rewrite of a Facebook friend’s post.  She had posted that their power was out, it was hot and family just went for a swim in their pool after dark.  Often, ordinary things can lead somewhere.

Swimming in the dark is an interesting metaphor and could lead any number of places.  Perhaps a poem about teens at a party, a world falling apart, or two lovers in the pool.  Maybe it’s a war and the people in the poem are escaping by swimming over a river.

Another exercise is to do a bit of free writing and then look for interesting lines you’ve just written.  Sometimes you need a prompt to get going.

Our workshop teacher gave us one, “I’ve never told anyone that …”  Start with that phrase and add to it (and no you don’t have to let out your deepest, darkest secrets, just stuff you don’t think about much). Here was my first attempt at that exercise:

I’ve never told anyone that I like lithium iron phosphate batteries.

II’ve never told anyone that I had an ingrown toenail that had to be removed.

I’ve never told anyone that the burn mark on my hand was from a burning plastic rope.

I’ve never told anyone that I once kicked a door open and chased the kids away from a warehouse.

I’ve never told anyone that it was me who called 911.

I’ve never told anyone that I was disappointed there wasn’t a nuclear war.

I’ve never told anyone that the dent in my bumper was me backing into a chainlink fence.

I’ve never told anyone that I deleted the file.

I’ve never told anyone that I’d really like to be published in a lit journal.

I’ve never told anyone that when I took my brother to the emergency room all I could think of was my father dying alone in the VA hospital.

I’ve never told anyone that I let father eat cheese after his heart attack.

I’ve never told anyone that I didn’t want to scatter my father’s ashes at sea.

I’ve never told anyone that I wish I could visit his grave.

From that exercise came my yet unpublished poem, Grilled Cheese.

These are the starters for a poem, the spark of imagination that leads the poet on.  Then comes the difficult work of filling in the rest of the poem and editing it until the poem becomes what the poem wants – needs to be.  At some point in the process the poet stops working on the poem and releases it to the world.

Some might call this publication and the question is why publish poetry?

It’s not to make money.  Poetry has always been art and except for a rare few poets and song writers, money is not part of the equation.  There are other motivations such as wanting others to hear our words, hoping to inspire, inform, disturb or motivate others.  There is a bit of ego here as the poet assumes that poem is important or deserving of an audience.

It’s complicated, but some of it also has to do with the question, “Is this any good?” or “Is it just crap?”  If a publisher accepted your poem for their magazine, then you’d know that your poem was good, so validation is another strong motive.

There are many ways to publish.  I’ve self-published a poetry collection and sold a few copies.  I’ve published some poems here on this blog and received generally good feedback.

But …

At workshops I’ve attended, poets I respect, have encouraged me to submit my poems to literary magazines, journals, etc. 

It’s a daunting prospect.  Even the editors will admit that the process is part luck.  Did your poem arrive on the day they were looking for a poem just like that?  Nearly all poetry publishers will tell you that they receive far more poems than they could ever publish and often turn down very good work simply because they only have room for ten poems this quarter.

This last week I started the process of researching places I might send stuff.  I checked out the database on the Poets and Writes Magazine web site and wow – the list is long. Thousands of places.  Some better than others and way too many to sort through so I’ve decided on a bit of a cheat.  I have a list of current poets I like and have styles similar to mine.  A little checking of their books and a few web searches and I now have a list of 20 publications where I might do a little submitting.

Next week it’s writing a short bio, simple cover letters and continually telling myself, “It’s not crap, send it.”


About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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23 Responses to Poetry Stuff and Publishing Stuff

  1. huckfinn47 says:

    Nice entry, Andrew! I appreciate your constant support.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. seunodukoya says:

    Hey sir!

    I find this intriguing. Just sitting at my desk, reading your post and thinking about things I’ve never told anyone about…so many ideas start to float into my consciousness!

    Thank you!

    Hey – would it be okay if I shared this idea at a writing workshop?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A giant proportion of it is luck, so send away with confidence! Your poetry is certainly good enough. (And never admit to deleting the file. The computer ate it. That’s the story; stick to it.) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. CJ Hartwell says:

    You have several gems in your writing exercise, but it was the cheese one that grabbed me. Looking forward to reading your grilled cheese in a publication – Good luck! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Years and years ago, I thought I would go into sales (ha!!) and was sent to a number of “how to sell” workshops. I really didn’t take to it (are you surprised? I was too honest about the products!) but one thing I never forgot was the concept that every no gets you closer to a yes. One of my famous lines to my kids when they were growing up was, “You might get a no when you ask, but you will NEVER get a yes unless you ask!” Glad the workshop was great and gave you lots of ideas to expand a bit (a lot?) out of your comfort zone! AGMA is cheering for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debra says:

    I’m not saying anything brilliant here, but I just add that I can see that writing poetry and finding places for publishing is a process. I hope the workshops are providing good advice in finding the best routes for you to travel. Poetry is art. Anyone with any common sense knows that art cannot be tied to an expectation of monetary reward, but poetry shared is a gain to us all. I’m really please for what you’re gaining in experience, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Swimming in the dark” brings back memories of stories I read last year of people who survived the wildfires by jumping in their pools and staying put until hours later when the flames had died out and the fires moved on. Good luck with your submissions.


  8. Good advice there, Andrew. I like the idea of free writing and then looking for interesting lines you’ve just written. I have no problem with writer’s block and have my novels lined up like little soldiers until 2022, but after that, it’s a void. I’ll check back with these suggestions then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect that once you finish your current work, new stuff will pop into your brain. It’s hard to think of new stuff while you’ve got current work to do.


  9. When I first started sending out essays to literary journals, I thought I’d be devastated by the (inevitable) rejections. Turns out rejection isn’t that bad. They’re not rejecting me. They’re just telling me that what I sent isn’t a fit at that particular time. Sometimes, an editor will make kind comments about the essay or even offer suggestions that might improve it. Each rejection stings less and even bolsters my courage to submit more. I’ve come to think it may be more about courage than about the writing. When I finally had one accepted, I felt like I had paid my dues by participating in the process. And my collection of rejections are badges of valor. Good luck and good courage, Andrew!


  10. jfwknifton says:

    Look on the bright side. At least email is free. It must have cost Wordsworth a packet in postage stamps before his daffodil poem was finally read by a keen gardener.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. maylynno says:

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Terry says:

    Anthologies are a good route for publishing as well

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are. Sometimes harder to find for poets. There are also a number of poetry contests run by Universities and other literary orgs. The advice I got was to just start somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

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