May 31, 2022

Poets Online Double Summer Issue

Like many other Americans, Poets Online is going to take some vacation time in June and July. Our June issue of poems in the voice of a dog will be followed by a double July/August issue. There will be two writing prompts this month and you may submit to one or both.

In these hazy, lazy days of summer, you'll have all of June and July to read, think and write and July 31 will be the submission deadline for both.

Enjoy the summer!

Visit our website at

May 16, 2022

Following Submission Guidelines

As we review poems submitted to the Poets Online monthly issues, we are always in receipt of poems that do not follow our submission guidelines. (see those at There are very simple items (title in caps; subject line "submission"), technical ones (single-spaced plain text) and optional ones (do you want your name linked to an email or website). There are also ones that will eliminate your submission immediately, such as sending multiple poems, not addressing the current prompt or putting the poem as an attachment. 

These are not unusual and every publisher has their own take on guidelines. Some publications are very strict about guidelines. We wouldn't reject a poem because the title was not in capital letters, but some publications would reject work that is in the wrong font or size. 

The point is that you need to READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES for every submission, and you should also look at what poems that publisher has used in the past. 

I am part of a group that reads submissions for a print magazine and for a manuscript award. With manuscripts, the guidelines are more complex and more specific to the publisher. For example, they might want a short bio OR they might want no identifying information because the submissions are being read blind. 

There are no guidelines that apply to all publishers, but if you are preparing your first manuscript, here are some general suggestions that might help you get the document in shape.

For poetry, single-spaced (with allowances for special typography and layout), each poem beginning on its own separate page in the manuscript; 

Standard letter size (8.5 x 11") in portrait orientation and use Times, Arial or Helvetica at 12 pt. black font on white page background; 

Most publishers want a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx. Some accept a .pdf or .rtf document.

You should have a cover/title page indicating the manuscript’s working title. Usually, that will also provide the author’s full name, residential address, and contact information (e-mail, perhaps a phone).

You might have acknowledgements page of places where some of the poems have been published before.

You need a Table of Contents listing the poem titles and page numbers. This might be the most difficult thing to set up in Word as publishers want page 1 to be the first poem and not the cover or any of the pages prior to the first poem. This can be very confusing to do. The sequential pagination is usually in the upper-right corner (document header) or in the footer.  Some publishers ask for the header to include the author's last name and the manuscript title but, as noted earlier, another publisher may want no identifiers.

It seems like the majority of publishers are suing Submittable or an electronic submissions system. This can make things easier for poets and publisher but these services are rather costly (which is why the trying-to-stay-free Poets Online still uses old-fashioned email submissions). Submittable is free for an author to use because the cost is picked up by the publisher. But it's not always free to submit your poems. A submission fee to submit individual poems, manuscripts and enter contest has become almost standard. Fees I have seen recently range from $2 to $35. There are still free submission sites and those range from Poets Online to The New Yorker, Submittable allows you to filter sites that are still free, but those fees often support the actual publications (especially print publications) and awards or payments for acceptances and staff salaries. 

One last general thing that really annoys a publisher - if you do simultaneous submissions and your work is accepted, be sure to notify the other publishers to withdraw your submission from consideration. I have been surprised and a bit angry about the number of poems we accepted for a print publication where the poet then told us it was previously accepted or even already published elsewhere! This is an easy to do courtesy. Some publishers have long memories for such indiscretions.

May 4, 2022

Prompt: The Voice of the Dog

Photo by Paul Moody - Flickr 

“They say a poet
can never write a purely happy poem about a dog
greeting the sun and what it has done to rain.
I don’t know about that."

so writes Analicia Sotelo in her poem “Grace Among the Ferns”

Does that hold true for the two dogs who author (or are the voice) in these poems read by Billy Collins?


In talking about his poems, Collins says that putting a dog into a poem makes it harder to avoid the sentimental. The dog voices in "The Dog on His Master" and "The Revenant" seem to be able to do it, though neither is "purely happy."

 I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you — not one bit.”

The dog in Mark Doty's, “Golden Retrievals” (from Sweet Machine) I imagine being his golden retriever, Beau, who he wrote about in Dog Years: A Memoir (P.S.) who along with his black lab partner, Arden, helped Mark through a very dark period in his life. Beau uses a sonnet form.

On their walk, the dog is full of joy and in the moment. But the poet?

"... Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,
a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

In "Grace Among the Ferns, "our model poem on the website for this month's prompt, the poet envies the dog. Grace, who like Beau in Doty's poem, finds delight in exploring the late spring ferns. The poet says:  

"I am not sure I have ever had such a joy,
either in discovery or expectation..."

The call for submissions for May is a dog poem in the voice of the dog. Let's take Collins' warning about over sentimentality into account. Let's remember the joy and Zen of Beau and Grace. You don't have to have ever owned a dog to know the voice of one - but having a dog that owned you will certainly change how to approach this prompt.


Visit our website at