September 19, 2018

Publish, Don't Perish

The question that poets probably get asked the most in workshops is how to get published. There are thousands of articles, hundreds of books and an endless amount of advice that is shared about how to get published.

I'm sure there is good information in all those places, but I would say the best answer is that you have to write good poems and you have to send them out regularly.

No one is going to come up to you at a reading or at your writing desk and ask for a poem or manuscript for them to publish. That is the one in a million kind of story I associate with starlets being spotted by a director at a soda fountain on Hollywood Blvd. in the 1930s.

We can offer a few places to look for places to publish.

How about this appealing headline: "1,290+ Literary Magazines Ready to Publish Your Work?"  That was the tagline for the Literary Magazines database at Poets and Writers magazine.  You can use it to research publications before submitting your work, and then use it for deadlines for contest and submissions.

It has a wide variety of publications, from the well known to the never-heard-of: That Literary Review is interested in "creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry of the mysterious and the wonderful." New Letters seeks "creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry regardless of subject, style, or genre." Your Impossible Voice publishes "brash and velvety new work," including creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

Poetry Mountain also has a list of literary magazines, as does

Again, the secret is sending out your work. Prepare for rejections. A baseball player only has to hit once out of three at bats to have an excellent .333 batting average. For poets, one acceptance for ten submissions would make you an all-star. But you have to take some swings.


September 11, 2018

Author Realia

There is something about the homes, writing desks and objects from writers' lives that people find fascinating.

The New York Public Library's Berg Collection is an archive containing of manuscripts and archival materials. The NYPL labels as "realia" non-paper items.

They have Charlotte Brontë’s writing desk (with a lock of her hair inside) Jack Kerouac's harmonicas, boots, lighter and a card upon which he wrote 'blood' in his own blood. Interesting, but what would we hope to take from these objects or from typewriters belonging to S. J. Perelman and Paul Metcalf, Mark Twain’s pen and wire-rimmed glasses, Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings?

As a poet, what would you take away from viewing the death masks of the poets James Merrill and E. E. Cummings? They might inspire you to write about the poets, I suppose.

On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf took her final walk, into the River Ouse near her home in Sussex with her her trusty cane in hand and you can see that cane with her things in the short New Yorker video below.

Does being in the presence of a writer's "realia" impart some creative or other spirit to the viewer? I know that I have felt something when I have visited the homes and even the graves of writers. I haven't decided on what that something might be.

There are some writing prompts to be found in these homes and in the objects there. I know I felt it when I walked through Walt Whitman's home and visited his grave.

Have you ever experienced this yourself? Share that experience in a comment to this post.

September 1, 2018

Prompt: Poetry in School

Most of us were introduced to poetry in school. As a teacher, I hope it was a kind introduction, but there are many people whose introduction to poetry in school seems to have been unpleasant.

Billy Collins' poem "Introduction to Poetry" is one that is often used to make a point about poetry in the classroom. The teacher asks the students to "take a poem / and hold it up to the light / like a color slide / or press an ear against its hive." Though the teacher wants the students to simply enjoy the poem - "to waterski / across the surface of a poem / waving at the author's name on the shore" - the students have been trained in school about how to read a poem, so they want to "tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it. / They begin beating it with a hose / to find out what it really means."

You may have more pleasant memories of your introduction to poetry or a good classroom encounter with poetry in a classroom. I can recall how Mrs. Cavico read and spoke about Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn" with such love and appreciation - and how she recognized that I "got it" while most of the class looked out the window at kids in gym class.

Having met her and heard her read and talk about writing, I imagine poet Naomi Shihab Nye would be a great teacher to have for poetry. In one of her poems, "The Young Poets of Winnipeg,"
scurried around a classroom papered with poems.
Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase…
they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage
to read their work, blessed their teacher who
encouraged them to stretch, wouldn’t let their parents
attend the reading because parents might criticize

These very confident young poets had not been taught to tie down a poem or beat it.

They knew their poems
were glorious, that second-graders could write better

than third or fourth, because of what happened
on down the road, the measuring sticks
that came out of nowhere, poking and channeling
the view

For our September, back-to-school prompt, write a poem about poetry in school. I'm guessing we have positive and negative tales to tell, from our own experiences as students and teachers or from imagined classrooms.

Submission guidelines.        Submission deadline September 30, 2018