9:28 am, Thursday, 20 January, 2011 – Atlanta
I have my coffee by me and have reread what I wrote last week, to make sure I follow roughly the same track. For those who have not read it, or who are a little fuzzy about what I said, you can go here. The curious serendipity that is life occurred again, as over the past week I came across an interview, a poem, and a couple of posts on the same question: Do I submit my poetry, or not? Part 2 is going back to that question, because I ended the week with more questions than answers. If I haven’t spent too long with the topic, I will go on to talk about resources, but that may become a part 3.
The topic has been a hot topic for a while. A few months ago Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer’s Digest, and a number of other members of the poetry community discussed the topic on twitter [#poettalk] with no real conclusion reached, but a lot of questions raised and a lot of confused writers, who, like me, want to know what the rules are now. And, therein lies the problem. In the pre-internet days, writers either wrote for themselves, or they wrote for themselves and for their work to be published, so that the truths their poetry told could reach others.
The internet has been a great leveler, which, in itself, raises questions and problems. Anyone who writes, bad or good, can put their poems out there. I have, as I read through many, many blogs over the past four months come across some bad writing, but I have also come across poetry that I find stunning, that moves me, that speaks a truth to me, and that I may not have ever seen if not for blogs. So, posting in blogs, allows more opportunity for people to post their writing, no matter the quality and that’s wonderful for them, and allows more readers to read good poetry they might otherwise never have discovered.
Then why not have us all post, get our truths out there and be happy? That might be a place we reach some day, but it’s not where we are yet. I know that I submit because I want affirmation from the people who should know good poetry [publishers and editors], and their audiences, who become my audiences, if I am published. I want to work to a standard that requires me to hone and craft and continually [continuously?] work and rework my poems. That becomes another question. With posting, and even with all the ezines that have sprung up, because anyone can start an ezine if they wish, who sets the standards? Do we need standards set? Who says what a good poem is and what a bad, or weak, poem is? Do we need that?
For those who wish to post and submit, there is the dicey question of which poems to post. Of every poem I write, especially in response to the many wonderful prompts around, I ask myself whether it might be a poem I want to submit. I don’t like that I have to struggle with that question, but I am posting more. Magazines and journals seem more and more crystallized on the point that if a poem has been on a blog and been read, it, in effect, has had its first publication. And, I do see the editors’ and publishers’ point: when they publish a poem, they want to be the first to let readers see it. However, I also think that more and more writers will self-publish, and that the stigma that used to attach to that is lessening in some quarters.
There’s another question. Is having self-publishing made easy by the internet a good thing? I have two chapbooks that say yes. I would not have read them if they weren’t published at all. With the sheer volume of poetry being submitted now, there are many more poets, who might have been published in the days of snail mail, who find it much harder now to get their work out to an audience.
James, at a gnarled oak, says, in a comment on last Thursday’s post: This is something I go round and round with. I’ve also been in several categories. Lately, I’ve been developing a philosophy of submitting. Anymore, I am unlikely to submit to a journal/zine/site that does not a) take electronic submissions, b) publish online or at least have some kind of useful web presence, c) take simultaneous submissions, and d) allow submissions that have previously been posted on a personal site. I generally prefer to publish on my site. I enjoy the immediacy of it (even if the poem has been in revision for months or years) and I like the fact that people read my stuff and I (sometimes) get feedback. Occasionally, I’ve had to ask myself if my best stuff should appear first on my site where my readers can enjoy it or is it best to go elsewhere. Perhaps a balance is best and that’s why I do submit, but I focus submissions toward venues whose submission policies align with my idea of how submissions should be done.
You see, I knew once I got going this would be long and it has raised more questions than given answers. I am going to go give my poor brain more coffee. Let me finish with a point made by the writer over at The Rag Tree. I am going to give you his last point, but go on over and visit, because he has six other points worth reading. 7) A writer has only two obligations: to write as well as he or she can and to tell the truth. If you believe this, then you are writing for your community, whether it be the one that surrounds you, sympathetic souls on the other side of the world, or people who won’t be born for a thousand years. You may be published or not (or only in a minor way), but what counts are your words (not you) and the healing they bring. Many good people have died as a result of telling the truth as they see it.
I look forward to comments on this entry and will continue next Thursday with wrapping up if it looks like something needs wrapping and then, resources. Yes, I did mention a poem on the topic. Next week I will give you the link.
Tomorrow is Friday’s weekly roundup. See you there.