Contemplations on Submissions

I submitted pieces to The New Yorker and Catharsis, two VERY different publications, this evening. I was bored and decided to have a little fun. Here are some notes on that experience.

1: Writing a cover letter when you have NO experience and haven’t been published anywhere is difficult, but it’s also fun to try and brag about yourself and work to make yourself seem as publishable as possible. 

2: It’s hard to tell if my work will fit in there. It is very likely that it will not, considering all of my pieces have at least one gag-worth moment. I submitted two of my most tame poems from last semester. I honestly don’t know where my poetry will fit in the world if I’m completely honest. Not that I particularly care about fitting in, I just want to know where I would be able to publish my pieces that deal with dried cum on old jeans and maggots stuck in someone’s molars. 

3: It’s hard to decide what pieces I am comfortable with the whole world seeing. I submitted a poem I wrote about an ex-boyfriend. I am fine with people in my workshops hearing very personal details of my life, as we are poets and we are inherently understanding of each other, and workshop fosters a huge sense of community and safety, but do I want the whole world knowing the little details about my life? About his life? Luckily this piece didn’t have too many intense details, just the color of his glasses, but still, if he read it, would he know it was about him? And would he be angry? 

I love being a poet, and I love reading poetry. Just finding where to put my work is troublesome. I write niche. I hope to find my niche eventually, but for now I will work with what I can and tailor my work a bit for each place I try to submit to. 

2 Replies to “Contemplations on Submissions”

  1. Thank you for reminding me to submit to Catharsis! And good luck on your New Yorker submission.

    I don’t know if this is something you’d be interested in doing, but I personally like to keep a record of my letters of rejection. I make it a sort of game: aiming to get fifty letters of rejection by the end of the year, for example. It forces you to send in works to places that you would have never considered submitting to; submit themed articles/poems/etc. for websites’ specific literary-themed submissions, finding new online journals…and if you frame the rejection like a game, then it stings a little less when you eventually get one! You can set this up pretty easily in a google sheet.

  2. The poet Lucie Brock-Broido advised submitting to journals providing the rejections wouldn’t stop you writing (temporarily or otherwise). In other words, there’s no rush, but providing there’s no harm, go for it.

    As you imply, the question of match is everything. One way I’ve approached this is finding the first book by a poet I love, seeing where they published, then trying those journals – triangulating, in effect, the journal’s love of that poet’s poetry with my love of that poet’s poetry. But another way to put this might be that it’s less about whether your poetry fits the journal and more about whether the journal fits your poetry. I’ll be honest: I don’t tend to enjoy the poetry in the New Yorker even when it’s written by poets I otherwise love. Sure, it’d be a lovely line item on a c.v. but the publications that have made me happiest have been those where I feel like the poets in the journal are writing poems that I’d love to have written. Start with the journal library in Welles, and with the huge array of journals online, and find those journals for you. In the meantime, fingers crossed for Catharsis and New Yorker (and don’t forget Gandy Dancer!).

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