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Publishing Poetry: Polish

A guide for poets.

1. Get Feedback

Writers, writing teachers, and editors all say the same thing here: it is extremely important to get feedback from readers before you send work out. Readers will help you see your poem with fresh eyes. They will help you identify all kinds of issues you might not spot yourself--everything from confusing language to simple typos. It's generally best to seek out readers who are more invested in poetry than they are in your personal relationship (i.e., ask somebody other than Mom). But how do you find such readers? 

  • Take creative writing classes. The Poetry Center offers our own Classes and Workshops program for writers in the Tucson community; see current offerings here. Your local community may have classes available at arts organizations, community colleges, and universities. 
  • Find writing groups/workshop groups in your area or online (see note below). Community colleges, universities, public libraries, and arts organizations are great places to start your search.
  • Can't find a local writing group? Start your own. You might ask local libraries and coffee shops if you can post flyers soliciting interested writers.

A note about online poetry communities and social media groups:

These can be truly helpful. However, not all online writing communities are created equal. In general, look for forums and communities that offer private critiques set up as exchanges between writers.

IMPORTANT: Do not post work online where the public can see it (for example, on an open poetry forum) if you are interested in publishing it somewhere else. Posting a poem on a public website (including Facebook and personal blogs) nearly always "counts" as publication to journal editors. They want to be the first to present your work to the world if it's accepted, and they won't consider a poem that is already available to the public online.

For self-publication online, see Alternatives to Traditional Literary Publishing.

2. Revise

Is your poem really, truly finished? Here are some tools to help you decide:

3. Select Work for Submission

The Internet contains vast repositories of conflicting advice on how to select poems for submission--much of it from editors whose recommendations reflect their own policies and preferences. The very best advice? 

Read the submission guidelines and follow them, to the letter, every time.