Amid all the blog talk of the importance/unimportance of publication , I’ve been thinking this morning about how I personally choose where to submit my work and why. It’s not an exact system I suppose, but there are a few over-arching tendencies. I typically tend to send work to places that:
a) publishes work that has an affinity to mine, work that speaks to me. Thus, I’m not very likely to submit to journals that publish a whole lot of very vanilla lighthearted verse, nature epiphany poems, or heavy on the innovative langpo sort of stuff. I like quirky, and a little dark and strange. Serious, but not heavy on the over-intellectualization. Language that is beautiful, or new, or interesting.
b) ideally have a certain prestige factor, or at least a reputation for publishing good work. I think this ties more into the above than any random decree by some arbitrary poetry god, and more to do with where the poets I most admire are publishing…ie. who I’m rubbing shoulders with. Therefore appearing in X journal with poets like Larissa Szporluk and OKD would rate much higher than appearing in Y journal with Billy Collins and Ted Kooser.
c) have a snazzy looking publications. Nice cover and design. A certain hipness and un-cheesiness to these elements. I’m easily impressed by flashy slickness, but also like the same things in a saddle-stitched publication, or even a nice handmade, DIY vibe. For webzines, a cool design can make me want my work to appear there and a terrible one to avoid it. I’m also a sucker for interesting titles and names instead of (Insert Geographic Location Here) Review. (completely all arbritrary, and not the defining way of picking journals, but a factor nonetheless.)
d) have a serious devotion to poetry. I like at least an equal ratio of poems to other stuff page-wise: fiction, reviews, essays. It seems poetry gets lost among the short fiction somehow in some journals, and that a lot of readers just skim over it. Historically this wouldn’t have been a problem, and due attention would have been given to all genres, but it feels like poetry is the poor step-sister in some journals where fiction is the the focus.
e) I guess I also have a fondness for locally produced journals and ones that are edited by folks I know, and/or places I’ve appeared before. It might be that I like the community aspect (or at least a smaller community). As for the discussion in a few blogs recently, I suppose I don’t see any issue with submitting and publishing in journals where you know the editor personally. However, any journal that seems ONLY to publish the same in-group of writers is immediately suspect. (As is any writer that only appears in publications edited by their friends.)