Monday, June 23, 2008

Poet's Market

The Poet's Market is a handy reference published annually by the same people who publish Writer's Digest. I remember, in the early 1990s, the Poet's Market listed approximately 1400 magazines that publish poetry. I'm sure a number of them have since ceased publishing; the 2008 Poet's Market lists approximately 1800 literary magazines. The information available in this book is impressive. For instance, it's not unusual to read there of a literary magazine that receives approximately 500 poems per year and publishes fewer than 50 of them. That magazine might publish artwork, photography, short stories or book reviews as well. Another magazine might indicate that it receives 5000 poems in a year and publishes fewer than 500 of them. The circulation of such magazines might be 1000 where 250 to 500 of them are libraries. After reading a few of these descriptions magazine editors provide regarding their publication, it becomes clear that there are many more people writing poetry than reading poetry. Or, more accurately, there are many more people seeking publication than there are people buying literary magazines. It has been this way for the last 15 years at least.

Increasingly, poetry and literary magazines can be found easily online. Poetry slams continue to be popular. Many states in the U.S. have their own organized Poetry Society and their own Poet Laureate. If the number of Creative Writing MFAs continues to grow, perhaps we can say the audience for poetry is increasing.

Whether there are thousands of people reading poetry or only a few hundred, we want those people to read and understand poetry well. I like the notions of poetry literacy and also poetic literacy. These notions are distinguished one from the other much in the same way the notions of science literacy and scientific literacy are distinguished. A person with science literacy will know for instance that oil and water don't mix and that salt dissolves in water. Given oil with salt in it, a person with scientific literacy can tell how water may be used to separate the salt from the oil. Similarly, a person with poetry literacy will know vocabulary such as stanza, meter, rhyme, alliteration, etc. while a person with poetic literacy can give reasons why one poem is better than another.

I am including a few quotes now from the 2004 Poet's Market. Occasionally, editors include with the description of their magazine advice for novice poets. Here are a few selections:

Read journal before submitting. Beginning poets need to read what's out there, get into workshops, and work on revising. Attend writers' conferences. Listen and learn.
Common Ground Review

Study traditional and modern styles. Study poets of the past. Attend poetry readings and write. Practice on your own.
The Connecticut Poetry Review

Be honest in your writing. Work hard. Read a lot.

We like original work. Read widely.
Drexel Online Journal

Most beginning poets show little evidence of reading poetry before writing it! Join a poetry workshop . . .
Obsessed with Pipework

My advice to people starting to write poetry would be: read as many recognized modern poets as you can and don't be afraid to experiment.
Frogmore Papers

You can't do anything new until you know what's already been done. For every hour you spend writing, spend five hours reading other writers.

Read poetry, particularly contemporary poetry . . .

Follow the standard advice: know your market. Read contemporary poetry and the magazines you want to be published in. Be patient.

No matter what sort of writer you are, you should read constantly and always become familiar with publications to which you are submitting . . .
La Petite Zine

. . . we suggest you read a great number of established poets and discover social groups . . . that support poetry.
Lotus Blooms Journal

Read big. Write big. Publish small. Join the herd.
Mammoth Books

Do you read contemporary poetry? If not, you might not be doing a very good job writing it, either, no matter what your friends and relatives tell you.
Manifold Press

Read, read as much as you can . . .

. . . Read the greats over and again and study styles, grammar and what makes each unique . . .
The Society of American Poets

Read everything.
Sulphur River Literary Review

Read absolutely everything you can get your hands on, especially poetry outside your genre of choice, and ask 'What if?' . . .
Tales of the Talisman

Poets are first readers. Read and study traditional and contemporary poetry.
Tar River Poetry

Read some. Listen a lot.
The Worcester Review

Read poetry; read fiction . . .
Bright Hill Press

Read as much poetry as you can. Immerse yourself in work other than your own. Turn off your television . . .
Chantarelle's Notebook

Poets who are not avid readers of contemporary poetry will most likely not be writing anything of interest to us.
Chautaqua Literary Journal

Read a lot to see what is being done by good poets nationally . . .
Common Threads


Anonymous said...

Still amazes me that it's revelation to some that reading improves writing. It's the only way to enter the literary dialogue, and being in the literary dialogue is by far the best reason to publish.

Andrew Christ said...

Yes! I like to think of the literary dialogue as a community, and participation includes reading, writing, critiquing, revising and publishing. I like to find people & sites online; but, for critiquing and revision, I prefer to meet and talk with people face-to-face.