Monday, 18 February 2008

Poetry Magazines and How to Submit Work

When I'm not Poet Laureating for Warwick, I write poetry on other topics, run a forum for poets, plus produce articles and reviews for a variety of literary journals and e-zines.

I am also on the editorial committee of an Oxford-based magazine for writers and performers called 'The Nail'. That means I get to read all the poems that have been submitted and to meet with other members of the committee every few months to discuss what's going into the next issue.

I thought it would be interesting for those who have never come across the idea of a small writing magazine before to have a look at one, and maybe even send them some work. There are literally hundreds in the UK, with most tastes catered for if you know where to look.

So if you'd like to find out more about the process of publishing new poetry in magazines, and to see what sort of work one particular magazine publishes - they are all different, often wildly so! - here is a link to The Nail website.

And here is a special message from Sophie, editor of The Nail, dated February 18th 2008:

There are only 13 days left until the submissions deadline for our special Climate Change issue of the Nail. We are still accepting submissions of poetry, short prose, illustrations, photos, and graphics for this issue.

If you need to refresh your memory on suggested themes or have a look at some inspiring articles, please have a look at our Submissions page where you will find more information and some useful links.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Sending Work to Magazine Editors
To send poems to a small magazine, the two most important things to remember are the two P's: presentation and postage. Type everything, including your cover letter - i.e. saying very briefly whether you've been published before - and your poems.

Keep presentation plain and simple. Anything fancy, like odd fonts or coloured paper, turns editors off straightaway; it tells them the work can't stand out on its own but needs to be presented with a flourish to make it memorable.

And postage. If you don't include a folded A4 envelope with the correct return postage on it, don't expect to see your work ever again.

Think of it like this.

Although some magazines receive grant aid to help them pay expensive production costs, the vast majority of small press editors run their magazines unpaid; only professional publications with distribution in the thousands can afford to pay editors for their efforts. If you were an unpaid editor, and you received 25 submissions a day and had to reply to them all, paying roughly 50p postage on each one, you would soon lose patience and start stuffing them in the wastepaper bin instead!

So make sure you enclose a large SAE with your poems.

Do read the magazine before sending work. They may not even publish poetry, or they may only publish haiku.

So you'll be wasting your own and the editor's time by submitting without checking the magazine out first. Find out the cost, then send the magazine a cheque for a single issue or an annual subscription.

You may not want to part with your money just to read someone else's poetry. But bear this in mind. It's vital to support the poetry world, which is one of the poorest of the arts financially, yet one of the richest in terms of emotional and spiritual rewards.

Also, if you don't support it, the magazine you're sending work to may suddenly go under ... before they can even publish your poems!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Warwick Castle poems

Some of you may remember that one of my major ambitions as Warwick Poet Laureate this year has been to produce a number of poems based around the theme of 'Warwick Castle through the ages'.

In connection with that project, I've been meaning to visit Warwick Castle for several months, and finally found the time to go last week. And it was certainly a splendid visit, highly inspiring, and I took reams of notes in my little black book ... facts, feelings, odd phrases that leapt into my head as I wandered around, and even a few lines ready formed.

But there was so much to see, I couldn't possibly take it all in during one afternoon visit. Especially as I had a small child in tow!

So I intend to visit the castle again on my own before Easter, and probably again in early summer, by which time I'm hoping some of the poems about Warwick Castle should have been written and will only require revisions.

Meanwhile, I have to put my third poetry collection - entitled Camper Van Blues - to bed this month, i.e. prepare it for publication at Salt Publishing.

It's a fiddly and stressful process for a poet to go through, making up to sixty or seventy poems 'public' in book form. Every comma needs to be questioned, every line debated. So I could do without having so many sick children in the house, not to mention being unwell myself this week!

And meanwhile, the Warwick Castle project has to remain on the back burner, simmering away in my subconscious.

Still, some of the photos I took should act as a visual reminder of my visit and may help to keep my mind focussed once my third collection is safely at the publishers and I'm able to sit down and work on these new poems.