On publishing poetry

 In Events, This Is How It Is Anthology

Last month, 18 LRC members read their poetry – many from the Anthology – at the McGregor Poetry Festival.  Afterwards, some of our members wanted information on where to submit poems for publication. As you know, I strongly encourage you to write primarily for your own mental health and self-reflection, putting down as faithfully as possible your lived experience; then, in the future, you might decide to put your work out into the world to inspire and enrich others.

First, you need to read poetry to learn about the craft. Then you need to write and rewrite. Read your work to a group of friends, come to a monthly LRC follow up gathering. Put the poem away for a week or three, then look at it again with fresh eyes.

When you feel your poem  is ready for submission, start with publishing individual poems in poetry journals. A publisher is unlikely to consider a collection unless your name has been around in poetry journals for some time.  Check out the websites of journals that publish poetry and have a look at their submission guidelines. Unless the publisher discourages this, you should submit your work to several journals at the same time. It will take around three months for the editor to get back to you, and you should not hassle them for a response prematurely. In the meantime, you will need an effective anxiety management plan while you wait. I just get on with the next bit of writing and bite my nails.

Here are the local journals that publish individual poems:

  1. Aerodrome
  2. New Contrast
  3. Prufrock
  4. Journal Single Story
  5. Itch
  6. Kalahari Review
  7. Botsotso
  8. New Coin Poetry
  9. Stanzas
  10. Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award
  11. Typecast

The following publish collections:

  1. Uhlanga Press
  2. Modjaji Books
  3. Botsotso
  4. Deep South Publishing
  5. Dryad Press

And of course those who perform at the McGregor Poetry Festival are invited to submit their poetry for publishing in the McGregor annual anthology which will be available at the 2019 poetry festival. There are numerous online forums that consider poetry, but many of them want a payment per submission. Glimmer Train and Rattle are two of the few that not only allow for submissions without a reader’s  fee at certain times of the year, but if they accept your work, they pay you!

I encourage you to have a look at the kind of work these poetry journals like to publish before you submit. And local publications are always struggling, so paying a subscription keeps them afloat. But I am sure they are in your local library too.

Going the self publishing route is an option, but it can be expensive.  Be aware of the potential pros and cons if you choose this route: you need to pay good editors, proof readers and designers to ensure the finished product is as professional as going the mainstream route. The Centre for the Book has brought out a booklet on ‘A guide to small scale and self publishing’. Heather Parker Lewis has also brought out a book called ‘Successful Self Publishing in SA’. These are probably available in your local library.

Mainstream publishing is going through incredible change at the moment as forms other than the paper book bought in a book shop become more established – e-books, Mobisites, print-on-demand, etc. Publishers are having to radically revise their idea of getting books to buyers. Amazon has a facility called Kindle Direct Publishing where you can upload your book for free.

Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if a journal rejects your work. We are all learning here, and not everyone likes all kinds of poetry. Keep writing, we do it for something more important than being in print.

All the very best, and hope to hear more of your work soon.

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