Category: Rejection Letters

Submit to What? The Fallacy of Poetry Submissions.

Over the last six months I have wasted time on submitting to a list of poetry magazines. When I began my career (in brackets like above) there was no choice.

Pre internet the only viable visibility for a poet was through the list of poetry journals which I had to photocopy as a minion at the South Bank London Poetry Library. I was employed as a customer service operative whilst more canny and frankly dull people held the reins. Placing yourself there was a handy stepping stone for carreerists and I worked alongside many later ‘famous’ poets and such like. I never had a head for networking so left after a short time to move to Edinburgh.

At that time there was no other route into visibility unlike now. Also the main literary journals were well known and indeed about 10% of them are still extant and influential. The rest like many a online magazine now came and went .

I have a folder with all my paper based submissions from 1992-3 still and it makes interesting reading. The hit rate was approximately 10%. So 100 poems out may get 10 published. I had met and been known by influential poets then and that helped me place poems that for sure. My first poems were published in John Harvey’s Slowdancer because Maura Dooley liked them and suggested I send to John Harvey. Both poets I respected and a magazine I fitted in to. Having hit the jackpot with first submission I then slowly fell out of sight and favour and gave up on writing altogether by 2007 although actual output stopped long before circa 2000 as I went off in different directions.

Returning to poetry somewhat on retirement I decided to test the waters now and submit to all the free online journals around. This excluded The London Review of Books for instance. I do not pay to play so to speak.

My hit rate has been zero. Nothing at all. I not on anybody’s radar and do not fit into any of the currently fashionable cliques and niche publishing ventures out there. Most of these are frankly awful. Not just bad themed publications on whatever half-baked shit idea the editors had..waves, dolphins, trees and get my drift but also the level of smug nepotism fermented by the social media groups is sickening.

A recent post by Irish writer Fred Jackson strayed into the ‘hung criminal blames the hangman’ syndrome when in fact the wider picture explains most of the way publishing works now. Poetry now is politically important as a viable conduit for dissent and raising issues be they trans rights, sexism, racism etc but this does not of itself guarantee good writing.

Occaisionally a good poet can combine both politics and verse but most of the time it is perMOANance not perFORMance…

i.e. Message outweighs form completely to the point where some prose poetry is nothing more than prose and bad prose at that but if says the right words it gets published. A Labour victory and the dream of increased arts funding (don’t bet on it folks as Starmer is a realist not a fantasist) will only increase the beggers at the gate.

So having put toe in water so to speak I can honestly say I do not care as I genuinely believe that this method of publishigng poetry is dead as a dodo.
A majority of the online journals were barely internet competant being the dream project of people with little knowledge of the interent and a free WIX account.
Even amongst professional journals the amount of design and presentational skills is low. There are exceptions like SALT which has a genuine designer at helm. Elsewhere it frankly embarrassing to see journals with art and poetry so bad you want to laugh out want elves you get elves you want dragons etc etc…

Based on this I have made an executive decision to waste no more time on submitting to editors I think weak or plain stupid…to magazines that cannot present my work better than I can and so it leaves one option and right now it the best course of action.

This blog and the associated substack have a far greater chance with time spent managing properly ( i.e. daily posting) than any magazine for raising my profile that is a fact not a illusion. I have made better contacts through substack than I ever would through normal social media (too overused and frankly a bucket of shit mostly) . Substack is the equivalent of meeting poets and writers in the poetry readings of old. You get to filter out the chaff and can walk away politely.

I now have two substacks.

One for general poetry criticism like this and one for a new Eco Poetry project so slightly different target audiences.

and this for reviews and criticism

This is my chosen route forward and I recommend it to others as for Poetry Magazines online or otherwise (mostly online as the cost of paper too high now)

Adios thanks for all the fish.

POETRY SUBMISSIONS: The Poisoned Chalice

Yesterday evening I submitted to all these with varying degrees of success with the exception of Belle Ombre (which I had never heard of and which seemed a contender for the new Agenda up its own (hare’s) arse award). I got something off to all the rest even the one that I was not supposed to get to i.e. London Review of Books which I worked out later drops subs in the genre they trying to make money on through a competition…nice little capitalist ploy there LRB.

I sent three poems anyway to annoy them.

The rest especially those using submittable were all good. Clear guidance and appeared to know web from elbow. Except Allegro which should win an award for bad usage of out of date blogger and no comprehension of design or fonts. (The editor kindly rejected me already so we evens). The good thing is some decent poems rejected already on the recycle route to be flung elsewhere.

I submitted a whole pamphlet to The North because it a good magazine and it did not say you couldn’t.

London Grip I had heard rumours of through Neil Fulwood and John Lucas connection.

Poetry submitting is a bit like going out to bat without a take a defensive stance and wait for the hundred mile an hour hard ball of rejection to bounce into your sensitive spot.

The balls get bowled back on average six months later it appears so not losing sleep over some of the more arcane ‘self-publishing and social media’ rules which frankly bullshit invented by people still working out what the internet is.

More frightening is the references to NO AI which like horse and stable door frankly too late most of the crap I seeing around the magazines and the hell for leather publishers is probably already AI induced.


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