Marketing poetry isn’t simple math. It’s a word problem. You show your work, and the teacher in you is either satisfied or not.
Lately I have yearned for more, meaning the math has shifted such that I am studying that old Indian concept of zero. That’s right. No longer satisfied with placing poems in this journal or that, I’ve taken to swinging for the fences: Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic… any well-known and lofty (by poetry journal standards) outfit that pays.
Pointing to the wall as you step to the plate (á la Babe Ruth) means two things: long waits and short rejection notes. The major leagues mean major competition. Spots are precious few, and many are taken by insiders and “members of the club.”
Still, periodically, over-the-transom types sneak through, cut lines, find a way. It’s that blind lottery ticket mentality: “It could happen to me!”
But, wait. Isn’t lack of publication leading to lack of readership? What’s a poem without a reader (ancient Buddhist koan)?
Like a diet (erm… “lifestyle change”), you actually get used to it after a while. The silence becomes an affirmation of sorts. Your resolution is moving along as planned. You’re hearing from major markets every 8 to 12 months, as if time is not of the essence, as if you will live long enough to see this submission of five poems through “school” (read: 5-10 markets).
It’s like meditation: the lack of publication in this journal in Obscura, Illinois, or that journal in Arcana, Indiana, is OK. The “om” of “zero” feels good. I just focus on my breathing and write. And revise. And write. And revise. And write….
2 thoughts on “Swinging for the Fences”
Yes, I’m doing the same though I don’t submit to “Poetry” because so many of their recent poems are awful, chosen I suspect because their authors are “marginalized.” One reason I stopped submitting to obscure and fourth-tier journals is that having the poem published is no guarantee it will be read, even by me. “Chiron Review” came in the mail, I looked at my poem to make sure it wasn’t riddled with typos, quickly skimmed the magazine for friends’ poems, then put it away on a shelf to be read later, which hasn’t happened. It’s remarkable how many competent but uninspiring poems appear in such minor journals. I love “American Poetry Review” and have started submitting there, but I know my chances aren’t good. At this stage in my “career,” I want my work to be in the company of work I truly admire. If that means a rejection every 10 months, so be it.
They used to have popular magazines and newspapers which everybody read or at least took into their home and perhaps out again with a lunch wrapped in it. The entertainment section lay in front of you when you had the time to read it unlike now when it zips away at a lightning pace and it’s own discretion. people were exposed to poetry and stories but now how much of it can be found anyplace? We need to create a market strategy to create demand. There is still a nostalgia for paper media but it will be gone for good in five years. Wake up America if you want to keep your freedom to read what you choose! Nobody is trying to push poetry in front of you. There is no profit or motive. Let’s have a moment of silent meditation?