How to Get Your Poetry Published
April 7, 2014
A workshop led by Michele Wolf
Years ago, once I had started to submit my poems to literary journals and anthologies, a classified ad in a prominent writers magazine caught my attention. The ad sought poems, fiction and photographs for an anthology about women and aging, and I had a poem—“For My Mother,” below—that I thought might be a good fit for it.
For My Mother*
I sharpen more and more to your
Likeness every year, your mirror
In height, autonomous
Flying cloud of hair,
In torso, curve of the leg,
In high-arched, prim, meticulous
Feet. I watch my aging face,
In a speeding time lapse,
Become yours. Notice the eyes,
Their heavy inherited sadness,
The inertia that sags the cheeks,
The sense of limits that sets
The grooves along the mouth.
Grip my hand.
Let me show you the way
To revolt against what
We are born to,
To bash through the walls,
To burn a warning torch
In the darkness,
To leave home.
I sent off the poem, and it made the cut. My payment was a few contributors’ copies—until the anthology, “When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple,” took off, winning national awards and eventually selling 1.7 million copies. For several years, thanks to an extremely generous publisher, who sent new contracts to all the contributors, I earned $2,000 to $3,000 annually in royalties. It was an amazing windfall, a real aberration in the poetry world. Of course, I can’t promise that a little miracle like this could also happen for you. But I can offer some tips to boost your odds of making the cut.
If you would like to place your poems in literary journals and anthologies, what are the best resources for helping you discover which venues are soliciting work? What tactics are best to help you figure out the specific publications that are right for you? What is a chapbook? How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit to a book competition? Is self-publishing a direction to consider?
These are just a few of the questions I will answer in How to Get Your Poetry Published, a one-hour mini version of the three-hour workshop I conduct twice a year at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Although it’s exceptionally competitive to get your poems accepted for publication—either in print or Web literary journals or in book form—there are many ways to enhance your chances. I look forward to meeting you so I can share what I’ve learned.
Michele Wolf is the author of “Immersion” (selected by Denise Duhamel, Hilary Tham Capital Collection), “Conversations During Sleep” (Anhinga Prize for Poetry) and “The Keeper of Light” (Painted Bride Quarterly Poetry Chapbook Series award). Her poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, North American Review, Boulevard and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. She serves as a contributing editor for Poet Lore. Visit her website at http://michelewolf.com.
* “For My Mother,” by Michele Wolf. Published in “Conversations During Sleep” © 1998 Michele Wolf. Published by Anhinga Press and winner of the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Originally published in “When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple,” edited by Sandra Martz.