As you learn to love poetry as a beginner, and then write as an amateur you soon or later discover that your love for writing might be something more. The feedback from your peers raises questions, should you publish? How do you go about getting noticed on a local, then a global stage? Is there money in it? If so, how much? As you may or may not know, there are thousands of scams out there concerning poetry, more specifically, your work. These sites or individuals tell you exactly what you want to hear, things like; “Your poetry is one of a kind”, “You should look into publication” or “If you win this contest, your poetry will appear in a book”, something along these lines. So, how do you know who to trust, that’s if you could trust any of them. Honestly, I am not published, nor am I looking to publish my work, but I have been asked how to get it done. When I was younger, I also was interested in having my poetry published, so I did do some research; I’ll discuss what I found out, pros and cons.
Firstly, if you’re an amateur poet, just like I consider myself; you’ve probably asked, “If i post my work on the internet on a few forums, can someone take it and publish it?”. In other words, steal your work. The answer is yes, but the likeliness is not, unless you write like an expert, and it’s a born talent; if your work was to be taken for publishing, it would go through some drastic changes, basically, it would be re-written. Real critics are particular when it comes to literary works; it’s like being graded on a school paper, did you ever get 100%? If you’re just starting out with poetry, you probably just write it, without knowledge of style, form, flow, etc. It sounds like a poem, it is a poem, but it’s not ‘publication’ worthy; grammar and punctuation corrections can probably be made (this is of course including my work, as I learn something almost everyday to improve the quality of my work).
Also, as a warning to everyone that posts in forums, if your work is stolen and you find out you can take legal action, but you will probably lose. The reason behind that is, yes, your work is copy-written when you post, BUT it is not registered under any published author. To win an infringement regarding your poetry, you must be a registered author, to become one is a daunting task on its own.
To become a registered author you must find a publishing company to submit your work to. DO NOT submit one or a few poems, or your work will be ignored. Think of it like an interview, you need to have a portfolio or ‘anthology’, which will be explained a little later. When submitting your work to these companies, make sure that the one you choose is a trust worthy one, with a good reputation. Searching on the internet will pull up thousands of sites that can promise to publish your work, some will ask for money to just look at your work, I wouldn’t bother with these because most of them are scams just to get your money. You might even find sites that offer to proofread your work before your submission to an ‘editor’ for a small fee, it could sound something like “We only charge 40 cents a line, or 7 cents a word, or $9 per poem, which ever is cheaper for you”. Sounds great and cheap doesn’t it? Still, a scam, at least in most cases. I find that the best sites to submit your work to are the sites that don’t ask for money at all, you still have to do your research, but at least you don’t loose anything, at the most, they got your work.
When you have found the publication company that you would like to submit your work to, make sure to build an anthology; this is a collection of your work, make sure to break it down into themes as well, sad poems, darkness poems, spiritual poems, haiku, sonnet and so on and so forth. It does not have to be all of your work, but make sure to submit enough ‘to quench their hunger’, so to say. After submitting your work, you will probably find yourself waiting a few weeks maybe even months for a response; and when you finally receive that response, it probably won’t be something you will like, you’re declined. This maybe frustrating to you, but the things you should take away from it is that 1) you know your work can be improved (they will probably give you feed back as to why your work was not approved for publication and how it can be improved) 2)Before you get praise, you will always receive criticism (it’s just how the world works) and 3) at least you were not scammed.
Although I am not looking to publish my work, I am always looking for legitimate criticism to get better, which should always be your first goal (“The day we stop learning, is the day we die” -Anonymous). If you or I get discovered for our work, this is the best way, it may be the long way to getting what you want, but it’s also safer; not scam free, but safer.
Now that the publishing portion is out of the way, there are other ‘MUST KNOWS’ to poetry. Below is a list, and I will discuss each of them:
Rhythm and rhyming; Long and short poetry; Writing in clichés; Titles; Writers biography
Rhythm and rhyming
Typically, writers with an interest in poetry generally start off with a poem that rhymes. Although it seems to be the easiest to write, it can actually turn out to be very difficult; you must find words that rhyme with each other, but also don’t stray away from the topic of the poem. Aside from that, the sound of the poem when read needs to have ‘flow’, in other words, it has to be smoothly read. The syllables in every line is important to help with the flow; for example, you wouldn’t write a poem that has line syllables like – 10, 12, 8, 13. There would be no ‘smoothness’ therefore, it wouldn’t sound appealing, no matter how good the topic. Poetry that has line syllables like – 8, 10, 8, 10, 9, 12, 9, 12 will usually get more recognition because it sounds smoother when read. When you get better with rhyme poetry, make sure to expand your talents to other styles, like haiku’s or sonnets. Rhyming poetry is taken as outdated and naive, more for new or amateur poets.
Long and short poetry
Longer poetry usually does not have a long-lasting impression on its readers; mainly because its long (longer than a page). Also, for publishing purposes, shorter poems with smaller lines are more likely to be excepted. The most accepted length for poetry is about the length of a page; this leaves enough room to be descriptive and short enough to leave some sort of impression on the reader.
Writing in Cliches
Writing poetry in cliches is a common thing for new writers, money, love and death are said to be the most common topics of poetry. If you choose to write on these topics, it still needs to be original and extraordinary; if you think about it, it’s actually a tough task. A way to make sure you are not ‘caught’ in these cliches, you can read poetry; you will be amazed at how many different things you can related to and write about. It will also widen your ‘vocabulary’ in poetry so your not re-using the same words in all your poetry.
The title is just as, if not more important as the poem itself; the title encourages the reader to read your poem, it needs to be ‘eye-catching’ and intriguing, but of course, still relevant to your work. Publishers say to stay away from one-word titles because it does not give much description of what will be read, unless it is truly a unique title. In other words, stay away from titles like – Friendship, Love, Hate, Death, etc. because they are too simple and spark no interest.
When submitting your work to an editor/publisher or even just a blog/forum on the internet, make sure that your bio is strong. Be descriptive, tell a story as to how you became a fan of poetry; what made you decide to write? Basically, the more information you give about yourself will help the reader understand why you write poetry, and the topics you choose to write about. It almost makes it seem like the reader has a better connection to you and your work.
Lastly, if you are searching for a publisher, or you just write as a hobby; don’t forget the reason why you started writing in the first place. It’s because you loved it, for whatever reason; poetry should be something that you enjoy to write or read before it becomes anything more.
by Jay R