Submitting poems to journals: the mathematics of yay or nay

Now that my book publication date is six months away, I want to see more of the poems in print before the book comes out.  So I am searching my Poet’s Market book for the right places.

Submitting poems to journals can be an agonizingly slow process. I have waited nine months for responses from two journals (one said yes, the other said no). When I send out poems, I record the date mailed, and I record the date I receive a response. My average response time is around four months; I’m not sure if that’s average for others, or what I could do to speed it up. Conversely though, I once received a rejection in six hours, but this journal’s rejection rate is 99.9% so I didn’t feel too badly.

So now I have a huge stack of printed-out poems on my kitchen table. I organized them alphabetically so I can find them more easily. But – which poems should be sent to which places?  Whenever you receive a rejection you always wonder: was it the poems I sent? Would they have accepted this poem instead? Or this one?

There are four factors in play:

the poem (Is it actually a good poem?);

the editors (Are they experienced? Do they really hate nature poems? Etc.);

the journal (Do they tend to publish poems anything like this poem?); and

the timing (Is your poem about snow when they are editing for the summer issue? Are there other poems about your subject already in the issue?).

For a poem to be accepted, all these factors must align.

That is why I don’t agonize about rejections; when you mind-read you can’t expect to always be right. And you’re grateful when you are.


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