Month: March 2024

How to Be Rejected ( to tune of Alice Cooper’s I wanna be Elected) Pt.2 – March – 2024

Submitting poetry to magazines these days seems to be akin to buying a lottery ticket or as I remember as a child filling in the football coupon with Xs….

Here are March Xs on the coupon…

So far the score is not good

Magazines Submitted to Jan- February- 10

Rejections – 10

However the average success rate of submission windows that run into thousands literally is below 10%…..according to the magazines themselves nice to let me examples from two replies..

We print less than 1% of the poems sent in each call,

We received a large number of submissions, only 10% of which will comprise the next edition.

So on that basis the best hit rate mathematically is 10 acceptances for every 100 mags submitted to… most in fact nearer 1% or 0ne in a hundred acceptances which says it all really..

I do only do online free submissions so at least there not the cost of stamps as in the old days.

Over a two year period 1992-4 I kept records of paper submissions.

The hit rate then was about 10 in a hundred so it looks like chances due to volume are bout one tenth of what they were in 1990s if I being optimistic my feelings is it now really about 1% of what it was ten there more poets out there now than potholes…

This because of pure numbers the increase in people self-identifying as poets has probably increased by a factor of a thousand plus.


So here we go

Current SCORE

Potential Magazines this month = 14

Actual number submitted = 7 Rejections so far = 4 Open = 3

Banshee (Ireland) Instant hit as designed by someone who knows how to design a cover and it Irish..that enough to submit end of…

Firewords (Scotland) I like Scotland it produced better writers over last 100 years than England and that a self-evident truth…

London Magazine X (Poetry Prize submission £10 a poem ) No I do not pay to enter anything …too mean and too sensible. They rejected me politely last month for a free submission I do not need to pay to be rejected when I can get it for free…free market economics..

Magma X (Themed ‘Grassroots’ not a good theme ) Very worthy but I don’t write social work poems….or do therapy worksops…or save whales very often..I do what I can and like most sane people bemoan the mess the Tories have made of these islands…

Shearsman X
By the time you read through the fairly arrogant tosh that the editor throws at you you pretty much feel like torching the whole thing. Oh and if they have to tell you they publish more women now it says it all really…

Also the editor handily tells you that nobody gets published until they have evidence of a period of being published thereby establishing a fan base to sell the fucking things ( although 99% of all poetry sells fuck all..) which happened with my Salt pamphlet which contained 20 years of published poems and sold 62 copies.

So cheers at present rejection rate I be six feet under long before I have the smattering of published poems required. Which why I self-publish and say bollocks to that system….submitting is a fun game nothing more and there some good stuff out there just have to dig deep.

OneArt (usa) XXXXX

Cool faux pop art look even cooler response times which makes me suspicious. Overall design lacking is basic at best suggests grad student building own profile job. Ha not even that actually quite an operator and CV builder on own. This mag is pretty fake and a prop to his ambitions basically…..not unlike a few similar people this side of the pond.

Response within 24 hours was a stone cold auto-respond so suspect he (not they) read bio do not read work . Ah checked all their recently accepted work and yup Bio derived acceptances or they just so good at picking every acceptance with a good bio..ha ha ha wonder they turn around so fast . Not a single poet (80% female by the way but that could just be state of play right now as no overt feminist flags) on their acceptance list had less than a fully developed CV .

Oh and he can help you be a better poet..indeed…
For that to be the case we have to look at his work
These three poems by ********** explore the subjective nature of reality…
I not going to present here but what follows are three pretty awful poems which figures…..made me laugh out loud.

I will not be troubling OneArt again …good thing is can dismiss as crap quickly and re-purpose to somewhere half decent instead 🙂

Full House Literary X

Very nice personalised reply good people to do business with will certainly send again in future.

Trans Non Binary friendly young guns mag part of Bad Betty/Broken Sleep wokeism. Terribly twee but then a generation that never worked and spends time networking has never really got its hands dirty. Closer to modern music than poetry as I knew it but that not such a bad thing. Submitted but would never expect to be published as for them it like trying to comprehend their grandfather’s point of view but then some grandfathers are still cool like Patti Smith ..


Stone of Madness Press X
is a physical [online] and conceptual space for queer, trans, and neurodiverse writers. I not in that tribe but a clear masthead and purpose again thank you for clarity and all the best.

Swim Press X
is an independent publisher and magazine
established in 2021 by a group of four Lancaster University
friends. (clarity and honesty well done).

All women editors so probably slanted toward feminist perspective.

It reminded me of a Creative Writing course I walked away from where too many sublimated sexual desire stories being written by young women to be healthy ( Wolves tore my clothes etc)..whilst amusing I not going to send any such story to a theme of ‘Desire’ but all best…from small acorns mighty oaks grow could be new generation Virago in 10 years so don’t knock em..

Muleskinner Press X

Despite my kind words a kindly worded rejection which did not appear to auto-respond will try again.

Made me laugh which not a bad thing these days and so American it could be an Americana music journal even the name….submitted three ‘reckless’ i.e. unpublishable anywhere else pieces that maybe the Yanks get but probably not…the best editorial CVs I seen in a while and a fucking relief after wading through the usual BMCC stuff * (British Middle Class Cosy). What the hell they will make of me god knows but hell they got Trump to deal with..I should be easy 🙂

Thimble literary Online X

Same as above not much of a reply but not stupid or asking fro money which a bonuds these days woudl consider again.

Well designed know what doing another USA based magazine which mixes the music and art worlds into mix my kind of people…bit confused by submissions page and suspect already closed but sent them some poetry anyway. Likeably laid back submission page without the usual rigorous delineation of sending ..

Moss Puppy: XXXXX
Young uns with no sense of design values chucked together at WIX which means pretty time maybe improves but looks like thrown together by 12 year olds ..actually most 12 year olds could do better.

Really am I going to submit to something that looks like a teenager’s…even the name is Twee Crap as is the stoopid themes idea…oh and the fanart section well words fail me…they really do…makes Deviant Art look interesting.

Serious stuff which a relief after last farago…(which I believe was the name of a Poetry Magazine once will have to check).

So serious I doubt I stand a chance until Faber come knocking but worth further reading and as have two days to do so will investigate further….looks very good.

Hell I even heard of some of guest editors and they are my age …its a start and maybe a small shaft of light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 Submitted all six of my father’s things poems.

I wanna be Rejected….

I’m your top prime cut of meat, I’m your choice,
I wanna be rejected,
I’m your yankee doodle dandy in a gold Rolls Royce,
I wanna be rejected,
Kids want a savior, don’t need a fake,
I wanna be rejected,
We’re all gonna rock to the rules that I make,
I wanna be rejected,rejected,rejected.

LAST FARMER – Pamphlet 2010 : free pdf download

The Salt Modern Voices Pamphlet No. 6 which was issued as part of a Salt print on demand experiment in 2010 is no longer available and all references to book and author have been removed from the Salt website in a recent upgrade.

Chris Hamilton-Emery has moved Salt steadily towards a more fiction based list with just the occasional poetry book now. The cover painting was not my painting it part of a rights free set of a Finnish artist available to use and save costs across the series so there you go….

I asked him about all this and he told me that I had sold the glorious number of 62 copies over the last decade so it unsurprising it no longer on list and I now reside in bin 13 with quite a few others.

Whilst it was available I would only shared promotional edited versions of the book out of respect for the copious and long contract but now it officially ceased to exist I can offer to all as an Easter Egg free download.

The volume pretty much hoovered up everything I had published in small magazines up until 2010. To this day my published works ceased in 2007 with three poems in Staple magazine. So until the new stuff I sending out now gets somewhere this is all there is….the last of the Last Farmer:-)

Poetry Reviewing again after 30 years!

Back in 1996 at the height of my poetry career (in Scotland not here!) I reviewed for the great Lines Review I not seen this in years but here a John Glenday and Richard Price review.

I posting as I starting to get my pencils sharpened for some more reviewing after a break of 30 odd years.

I feel like an undercover ‘sleeper’ activated behind iron curtain in a Len Deighton novel. I have returned to Poetryland with fake ID and a Walther PPK hidden in my Jacket (Poetry ref there peeps)..just so you know

MY FATHER’S THINGS – Poems for Ivo Charles Belcher

My father as ayoung boy holding a rabbit..Long Wittenham Berkshire probably during wartime.

I produced an illustrated sequence of poems for my father in 2019. This April 13th he would have been 92 had he lived but he has been gone 20 years now.

As a tribute I have created a pdf of the sequence that was shown as a series of artworks at the King Billy.

Below a link to the free pdf download

Note on process. All typed directly on old manual typewriter. Very few mistakes or edits. One take like jazz… either got that swing or it ain’t….

DIESEL ON GRAVEL – 1986-1989 First Flash Fictions

Poems written in London and Oxfordshire. Published in early 1990s in Last Gasp pamphlets. Last Gasp was a poetry open mic I helped run with poets Giles Goodland and Bridget Kursheed in Oxford.

From 1986 I was heavily influenced by Raymond Carver and especially his book FIRES.  Indeed I attended his memorial readings event in London and saw Edmund White, Richard Ford and Salman Rushdie read in his honour.

I think this volume is the ‘lost volume’ as I was living at home in Didcot and totally cut off from literary world from 1988 until 1990.

I did do some readings through the Last Gasp group until I moved to Edinburgh in 1993.

None of these poems have been seen apart from in these hand made pamphlets.

Style note all hand written then typed on my mother’s old typewriter.

The last few pages of the document as pdf have originals and some uncollected poems.

The blue pen and line through a poem are from Giles Goodland when selecting for a pamphlet…I did not have second copies as everything had to be typed by hand …so here it is..

Diesel on Gravel…..1990

Diesel on Gravel PDF


Having dipped my toe in Poetry World UK again I starting to get my bearings.

Here a online statistics crib that may tell some of the story:

Poetry book sales in the UK

  • In the UK, poetry book sales generate over 12 million GBP in a year as of 2018.
  • During the same year, over 1.3 million poetry books were sold.
  • Poetry book revenue in the UK increased by 15% in 2018 over 2017, which was already 13% bigger compared to 2016.
  • The average poetry book in the UK costs around 9.46 GBP as of 2018.
  • 66.7% of poetry buyers are under the age of 34.
  • 41% of poetry readers in the UK are girls and women aged between 13 and 22.


It not great. The biggest news to me as a 65 year old male is that the demographics of actual purchasing are heavily slanted at under 34 and female (I knew female make up 75% of all book sales as Neil Astley (Bloodaxe) kindly filled me in about that in 1993 at a Norwich book fair as he handed me back my poems and it fair to say that he has produced more books with female authors than just about anybody in the UK ( pays the mortgage I guess). To be fair he also used that income to generate a list with some decent poetry and especially translations. Ditto Carcanet which although terribly embedded in selling to academic library shelves and students ( count the number of mid range OK academic authors on its list and you pretty much in 80% territory). In fact you probably not get an academic job in poetry in UK these days without a Carcanet/ PNR seal of approval. Like a snake eating itself academic authors then ensure academic students on the PHD production line get published its a revolving door.

SO what world do you live in?

There are several overlapping poetry worlds to deal with which roughly speaking are:

  1. Traditional male-dominated publishers
    These have been around since the first time I wrote poetry in 1980s. Despite the advances in equality I am guessing they still fed and maintained by pretty much the same Oxbridge educated elite that runs everything else apart from a few shitty art centres. To pretend otherwise is absurd. The in brackets are who actually run them.
    Faber  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), Cape(Penguin), Carcanet (ACE) Bloodaxe(ACE)

    2. Performance/Slam/Therapy
    Heavily dependent on ACE funding and Academic support just about every niche genre catered for from Peformance to Black Lives Matter to Goth to Trans and anything betwixt and between. A very healthy scene at present fuelled by the democratisation of the internet and phones. Spawned some well-funded (for now) new kids on block like Bad Betty and Broken Sleep who have instigated some breaths of fresh air into the scene amid a lot of bullshit and posturing but have affected a genuine diversification of both reader and audience.
    Better that than the next bunch.

    3. White Middle Class Hobbyists
    This is a huge new area of what I can only describe as life-writing disguised as poetry. Heavily dependent on feelings and self analysis ( motherhood, death, mid-life crises,) basically all the First World trials of people who have very secure post employment or rich partner incomes. When I worked in academia I jokingly called the M.A. students Cash Cows as they provided a nice earner for the art college. That applies to anybody over 25 (under that they were grant funded now everybody no matter how rich can scoop a student grant). They are now flooding creative writing courses UK which advertise themselves as the moonshot to the stars as long as you pay their fees (which now around £12K a year as student loans siphoned off by the universities).

    That in itself not the problem life-long learning should always be supported BUT these usually articulate and narcissisitic well-heeled baby-boomers (lets be fair most poets are to some degree) are very good at creating ring-fenced cosy little worlds of poetic certitude where they publish each other create promo blurbs for each other and generally ignore most decent poetry and anything but themselves.
    In my research I found one hilarious bunch mutually publishing and boosting each other and sharing blurbs with each other all the way from the Creative Writing course on. Fabulous …poetic quality and depth forget it..

    There an app online called twitter circle just run some of these people through it you will se how nepotistic and chrony based their precious little scenes is fabulous:-) X starts a review- reviews Y – Y starts a press publishes X then X and Y start a academic funded conference lets call it ‘Call of The Wild’ and then they meet other small circles of self-boosting people like them and hey presto an anthology published by Z (who actually was at college with X and Y) happens.

    It beautiful and it is utter crap…..mostly.

    Oh and the richer they are the whiter they become and the further right their views. Generally speaking they mix with Oxbridge circle people not your performance and slam riff raff.

    I would post mine but I so shit at networking it just sad…some poets I am surprised manage to write anything such is their dedication to posting their breakfast and any other trivia to raise an audience.

    Apart from being turned down smartly by one particular magazine I not really had time to investigate but the statistics above drawn from USA suggest hard times ahead as they generally ahead in their brand of poetic capitalism. Reading stats are down and the switch from paper to digital far advanced stateside probably because demographics increasingly younger and phone based.

So where do I pitch old-fashioned slightly adventurous but well-crafted white male verse at these days?

Well it not a total disaster as amidst the floods of drivel there are some solid slightly dull places for solid slightly dull poetry which may actually be about something other than feelings and or Dolphins. Larkin would approve types.

Also not all academics are CV boosting narcissists and a few can actually write and probably would rather not be checking their Google Scholar ratings every day.
Academia is a bit like an open prison plenty of trips out if a good academic but break the rules you in solitary or worse assigned to a failing course and made to promote it.

I not given up entirely but I do feel low when wading through the poetry worlds out there now.

To make things better I would suggest banning all people over 30 from creative writing courses that would help. By then they probably never get any better and they could do something else useful to society instead of sitting in coffee shops discovering Joyce and Wolf.

The Impossibility of Producing a Print Literary Magazine.

A link to this article was shared onine by by Martin Malone former editor of Interpreter’s House which pre Martin I helped survive as a paper edition by creating a basic website.
The price of progress is that the magazine now now exists only online.

The article by Wendy Pratt of SPELT magazine

available to read here:

My response in comments as follows:

I agree totally with your comments above although I have seen a lot of poor quality work riding on the coat-tails of the ‘so-called’ working class writing revolution which more a Bookseller PR stunt than actuality. The print medium died the day Oxford University Press tipped its lead type into the Thames or is that urban myth based on link below? (there is an eco-poem if ever there was one perhaps I should write it).

It ended in early 1990s when a press I represented by actually hand set a poem of mine (I will find and share on my blog) in lead type. They had one of the last machines for creating type and a man came to mend it He was the last of the generation that had knowledge to mend them. The knowledge died with them.

A decade later I helped Oxford University convert ALL paper based Science publishing acquisition to computers and then a whole College’s library. Digital hit hard around the Millennium and since then a younger generation have developed entirely new habits of consumption, dissemination and interaction. Paper unless sold as anachronistic fetish object ( works for Vinyl records) is to all intents and purpose dead as a piece of type in muddy water. So forgetting the argument that internet is green (it is not the servers and electric generation to fuel it alone cost a few rain forests). Where do we go now?

Substack a good choice. I suggest you read the Jazz critic Ted Gioia (brother of poet Dana Gioia) he very cutting edge on where we are now and it isn’t good news.

Your magazine looks great but it also looks like something I would have shelved at Poetry Library in 1990 (I been around that long). As for getting your messages across I returned to ‘the poetry world’ or rather the blizzard of new ‘worlds’ each tightly regimented and screened online (or paper) come to that. This is not because all magazines now are nepotistic (though a good few are or class interest based) but simply because the numbers now are frightening. Like music anybody with a phone and half a brain can be a poet if they want to (before AI made it even easier to simulate poetry) .

I grew up in an era of clearly defined gatekeepers ( Faber, Cape, Bloodaxe etc) which on the whole male dominated yes but because numbers far lower and generally standards higher it was easier to at least work out one’s place in the (singular) poetry world. Post world-wide web that no longer possible one has to find a nest that suits and defend your interests whatever your politics from that lonely tower as global capitalism basically runs riot below.

As a white (working class whatever that means these days and frankly in some cases not much) male aged 65 trying to re-enter the worlds (plural) I on a hiding to nothing and add fact that I been writing about the environment for nigh on 40 years it appears I am now almost unpublishable going by feedback I had so far. The reasons for that are generational (ageism) political (sexism) and demographic as I do not read or wish to engage with certain class ridden circles or even some younger circles of interest any more than they do me.

So Substack is a potential rabbit hole to another wonderland. It does work but if you enter this domain be prepared to post daily to make it work and engage followers and also to engage directly with thorny issues of political activism if talking Green we are no longer in village fete friends of earth stage we are in defined as eco-terrorism (pace Edward Abbey) territory now. Truly engage and it may be that Spelt finds a new niche.. paper is not dead its just not printed on any more..

Out of frustration I took a new tack towards ECO and Poetry on my substack is a long job but it seems to engage people far more than straight poetry offering. You may find of interest.

We are in for stormy weather 

My old style words on a screen and very occasionally a page although less so in the last 20 years than before here.

A lot self-published because I an early adopter and specialist in multimedia. I find the fetishism apparent in the ‘self-publishing’ wrong attitude symptomatic of those who should know better slamming the stable door shut after the horse not only bolted but also shot dead…..

It generally white middle class that promulgate that attitude of ‘I don’t want my poems online’ because they dream of standing in a bookshop with that object in their hand feeling pleased with themselves along with the other 5000 recently cheaply published (thanks to digitisation of the production line) authors feeling the same ..
It is complete nonsense.

I look forward to the podcast…..they are hard work….I ran a music one for a year.

HOW TO FAIL AT POETRY No.1 How to be Rejected Jan/Feb 2024

This is how it feels to be back on the poetry pitch….

I creating a useful guide on How to Fail at Poetry as so many seem to effortlessly succeed these days going by the drivel being pumped out by little presses invented by poet’s mates so here how to avoid all that and really fail properly.

I will soon be creating a poocast where you can learn to fail and offering workshops in a whole range of How to Fail areas including How to Fail as A Working Class Writer, How to Fail as a dreadlocked eco warrior writer and last but not least How to Fail writing about being a mother although this is by far the hardest one to fail at right now.

Two months have passed and here is the scoreline for my first batch of poetry submissions. Treated as a Football League Table where after Mag name 1 = received reply and number after my name = 0=rejected 1=accepted and P means postponed no reply yet. X = Too bad to bother submitting or demographics against me. i.e. wrong genre, sex, colour, attitude or not specifically writing about trees or animals or whatever stupid bloody theme they came up with this time….Waves, Dolphins or Feelings…

Butcher’s Dog 1 – Shaun Belcher 0
The London Magazine – 1- Shaun Belcher 0 ( I sent outwith their guidelines so not surprised but was turned down nicely)
Strix – 1 Shaun Belcher 0 Nice sense of design and probably good as from Leeds.
The North 1- Shaun Belcher-0
Allegro 10 ( so fast and rude it seemed personal) – Shaun Belcher-0
Amsterdam Quarterly 1 – Shaun Belcher 0
Bell Ombre – X (Goth Rubbish)
London Grip 1-1 – Shaun Belcher Almost 1 but 0 (suggested re-sending)
Mechanics Institute Review -X see Strix above this one a nest of academics who not overtly Goth so may be ok..missed deadline.

So January stats are Poetry Mags 7 – Shaun Belcher 0 although VAR checking for possible goal in March… that it for now…..a glorious Faber future awaits.

This month easy I only remembered to submit to one American magazine ‘Leon’ with both poetry and short story receiving the ultimate accolade of rejection in fairly prompt manner for both.
Hats off to our former colonial chums for being as rejection orientated as us Brits. They took to the trees when the redcoats came…old habits die hard.
So to date one submission as foillows

Leon 1- Shaun Belcher Poetry 0
Leon 1- Shaun Belcher Poetry 0

Nice to be rejected by same mag in two different genres makes one feel that one is offering a wider portfolio of failed material…

Rest as follows

Artemis X Wimmin Only
Pennine Platform X Total luddite why waste time setting up a submittable account when one can use a failing postal service to send your damp with rain manuscript like in olden times….for fuck sakes just close yourselves down it no longer the 1990s…
Carmen et Error XXX North east Goths hated the graphics dont have to really go past that do I…for people who think ‘Uncanny’ is a new thing..e.g. academics who bought Cure records. Ignore with venom. Only true word is Error.
Couplet XX – only couplets an easy ignore X2
The Alchemy Spoon X Missed deadline as last in list. Uses a alternative system to Submittable which I had not heard of called Duosuma? May try again when next window opens. Website confusing but they do at least keep updated and on to AI. I also not a fan of ‘themed’ issues but give them the benefit of doubt. Do provide free online issues which positive.

Green Ink Poetry X – Looks like the kind of poetry magazine a hedge monkey would have invented after a bad acid trip. Too many druids not enough reality. Julian Cope would love it…..maybe it him in disguise.

Poetry Wales X – At last fundamentally a decent magazine but oh dear what a fucking awful theme..Wave..what like the Severn Bore……..pass to druids.
I have a tendency when facing crap themes to try and twist the objective hence I was rejected once for a ‘generation’ theme by suggesting it could benefit by being about energy generation….rejected but always amuses me.

Gutter X – Gutters are useful for displacing showers of shit and this no exception looked quite good until i forgot closing date and now the website turned into a giant pink and green splodge so one for the future then ..

Stats for February

Magazines 1 – Shaun Belcher 0

Opening 1st March

The Common
Ink Sweat and Tears
The HIgh Window
The Shore


In the mid 1980s I worked at a Tottenham Lane public library which had a small fire and books were smoke damaged and to be binned. I salvaged and still own a hardback copy of Fires as above by Raymond Carver.

Then I considered myself a Carveresque poet rather than a short story writer. In 1990s I actually met Carver’s widow Tess Gallagher the poet at the South bank and told her the story.

It took me until 2015 to actually produce my first short story which is here and called The Leash.

This blog will contain my further short stories and reviews of mostly american short fiction.



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