That Whole Publishing Thing

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Lisa Fishman and Tony Trigilio put on a brief event where they talked about the practical matters of being a poet this past weekend. This included talk of the (ultra-competitive) job market, cover letters of all sorts, CVs, and, most relevant to me right now, getting published in journals. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was enlightening and answered a lot of lingering questions I had rattling around my head when it came to submitting. It’s nice to have confirmation that you are indeed doing it right.

The screenshot above is for jubilat, an awesome literature magazine out of the University of Massachusetts that I would desperately like to get into because they have so many poets I love. It turns out that’s a great reason to want to get into a lit mag, actually.

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The reality is I was not totally attuned to the contemporary poetry world when I came into the program. Frankly it’s hard to know where to start. You latch onto this and that, but a community of artists who are all sharing what they like and creating a web of associations of contemporary poets that are influencing them and that they think will influence you is really invaluable. This trickles down to the magazine level as well. How are you supposed to know what aesthetic you will like in a magazine when you know, maybe, five places new poems are published in this country?

The MFA program changes that drastically. There is some cynicism about the suggestion to buy a magazine before you submit since it’s putting money into the (very empty) coffers of these lit mags, but you really need to get to know the work to see if you really want to be in there. If you think it’s a waste of money to spend 5-12 dollars on a lit mag, then I think you have to gauge your interest in poetry to see how real it is.

One more quick tip: if you have a poet you like, check out their book to see where their poems have been published. This can give you a good lead for magazines to check out. Also, New Pages and Duotrope are both excellent.