Tips On How to Get Your Poems Published (article)

As I’ve had several hundred poems published in magazines, journals, periodicals, anthologies and books over the years as well as edited several publications, I thought I would share some of my knowledge when it comes to poetry and how to get poems published. This knowledge is based on my own experiences in writing and publishing.

  1. Read contemporary poetry. Sure the classics are enjoyable to read and useful to know, but please ensure you are familiar with modern poetry and it’s vernacular. You are living in the 21st Century, not the 18th or 19th. Pick up some recent journals and read them. Buy some poetry collections of contemporary poets and read them. Attend poetry readings. Go to book launches. This will help you write work that feels current. Always write for the time your living in. As an editor it was painfully noticeable when people submitted poetry who obviously hadn’t read much poetry from the last century. We don’t write poetry like Wordsworth or Whitman or Blake anymore and you won’t find anything like that in modern poetry journals.
  2. Read the publications before you send poetry to them. Before you submit anything, take a look at the publication you are planning to send poems to. See what sort of poems they publish. This will help you get a sense of what the editors are looking for. If you don’t think they will go for your writing, either find a publication that you think will, or see if you can change your style to something they might want to publish. This may even help make you a better writer.
  3. Always send more than one poem. You might think you’ve written the greatest poem of all time, but usually editors want to see a range of your work. Check the submission details. Many journals will state the maximum amount of poems you can submit for that issue. Usually it will be around four or five. I always send the maximum to give editors a good range of my work for them to choose from. You never know, they might accept one you weren’t expecting them to. If there’s no maximum number stated, send no more than six.
  4. Don’t expect all your poems to be accepted. It is extremely unlikely that an editor will accept every poem you send them for publication. In fact almost impossible. Remember there are a large number of poets also submitting work and there is only a limited amount of space in each publication. Most editors will usually want a good mix of poets and that means they may only use one or two poems of each poet they accept. Occasionally I’ve had up to four poems accepted in journals, but that can be rare.
  5. Don’t send overly long poems. Your twenty page epic will not be accepted, but maybe a passage from it might. Due to space issues it is best to send poems that are on the short side. No more than 50 lines at most.
  6. No genre poems. Don’t send horror, fantasy, or science fiction poems to a contemporary poetry publication, unless the publication is of that genre.
  7. No concrete poems. Concrete poems are poems where the words form a shape. It’s kids stuff. You won’t be taken seriously if you send them.
  8. No archaic language. Modern poetry does not use archaic language. So no thee, thou, thy, or anything like that. See note 1.
  9. Rhyming or free verse? All the journals I’ve submitted to usually publish modern free verse. There are some out there that publish rhyming poetry, but that’s not a field I work in. I only use rhymes when writing humourous or occasional poetry. As in note 2 check the publication before you send them anything to see what they are willing to publish.
  10. Ensure your poetry is well edited. Does every word in the poems you’re sending deserve to be there? Will the poems still work if you remove words, or even lines? Will they be even better if you cut out some passages? To catch the eyes of the editor, poetry has to be energetic and tight. Often a lot of poetry gets rejected because of too many unnecessary words. The poem may be good, but it needs sharper editing and thus is a bit flabby. I used to put poems I had just written into a drawer for several months. Over that time I grew less attached to the poem and could see what needed to be cut when I looked at it with fresh eyes again. Also over that time, my subconscious would think about it and rework it in my mind, usually to something much better.
  11. Watch out for clichés. A cliché is an overused expression, such as cold as ice, thorn in my side, sands of time, etc. I’ve noticed a lot of poetry in WordPress can be cliché-ridden. If some expression you’ve used seems overly familiar, check it on Google. Try to rework it so it becomes something unique from you instead. Always avoid clichés like the plague 😎
  12. Give a brief biographical note with your submission. The editors will want to know more about you and what to say about you in the contributors notes (if they have one). Give them details like where you live, what you do for work, other publications your work has appeared in, books published, future plans, why you write, etc.
  13. Send specialist poetry to appropriate publications. Poetry such as haiku should be sent to haiku journals or publications that accept them. Usual poetry publications may have editors that don’t understand the form, so they won’t accept them.
  14. If you’re rejected, keep trying. Don’t be disheartened. Everyone gets rejected. Everyone. Send the poems to somewhere else. Write more poems and send them off again. Just keep writing no matter what. Join writer’s groups, get other poets to critique your work. If you’re any good eventually you’re going to get published. So stick with it.
  15. Ask editors for advice. If you’re rejected feel free to ask the editors why they didn’t choose your work or how you could write them better. Some may not respond, but some might and give you some good insights. I tried to give constructive advice to people if they requested it. Critiques of your work can sting a bit at first, but you’ll learn a lot about writing and even about yourself…

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©️2022 Joanne Fisher


2 thoughts on “Tips On How to Get Your Poems Published (article)

  1. Thanks for advice! I only write prose typically and have only submitted one story which I admit was not accepted. Thankfully the experience itself was worth it though. I think your advice is applicable to prose too….especially the advice to read the magazines etc you are submitting to. I wish I had when submitting. It would have given me valuable insight into what they were looking for. Seems like an obvious thing now. Hard to avoid writing in our own bubble sometimes. Being in community of writers is so important I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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