Sunday, August 12, 2007

Poetry Publishing Basics: Like House Painting, Preparation Is the Real Work

This is information I presented to the Kansas Authors Club District 2 meeting last week, and I was asked to post it. Good luck with the publishing/reading/writing/thinking/ego part of po-biz.

  • Get Poet’s Market or International Directory of Little & Small Presses for MS basics.
  • Learn grammar well. Learn style—read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
  • Educate yourself. Read! Take classes and attend conferences. Lawrence Arts Center. KU non degree-seeking student. River City Book Fair Oct. 14, sponsored by Lawrence Public Library. Kansas Book Fair Oct. 5-6. Read Poetry and American Poetry Review.
  • Be part of a writers’ group—online or in person—and get feedback.
  • Write for your community. Poetry is a communal art form, so start locally. Write for organization newsletters, Lawrence JW, your writers’ group (Lawrence Housing Authority anthology, for ex.).
  • Be part of the book culture. Buy books. Check books out of the library. Download book podcasts. Read. Read. Read. Read.
  • Cultivate a variety of tastes. Learn the different movements in poetry: surreal (Charles Simic & Victor Contoski); deep image (Ted Kooser & Robert Bly); formalist; etc.
    Appreciate the arc from beginning to journeyman to mastery of writing. It takes years, and each stage has its joys. There are very, very few writing prodigies. Expect to put in 10 years. Try to learn from those ahead of you and help teach those behind you.
  • Know your audience: buy the magazine(s) you want to publish in or books from the publisher(s). Become familiar with their style and needs. Get online and read guidelines.
  • Use Kansas (or local) internet resources. Kansas poetry site- Ad Astra blog- Washburn “Map of Kansas Literature” -
  • Use national sites: The International Library of Poetry - comprehensive poetry site. The Internet Poetry Archive - Selected contemporary poets. Poets House - Poetry Info and Resources. Poetry Daily – Daily poem, news, archives. Poetry X - devoted to reading, analyzing, and discussing the best in classic and contemporary poetry. The Poet's Bookshelf - American poets, biographies & poems. Poetry Slam Incorporated - the official website of poetry slams.
  • Join professional associations: Associated Writing Programs. Poets & Writers. Poetry Soc. of America . Academy of American Poets
  • Learn about self-publishing and print-on-demand. Literary presses are stressed, run by volunteers, & flooded with MSS from professors needing tenure. Self-publishing is quick, cheap, and convenient, plus if there is profit, you get it. is the POD I use, and there are others. It’s about $300 to set up and publish a book and then about $6@. You can reorder any time. It goes on automatically.
  • Don’t get caught up in the fame game. Examine your reasons for wanting to write and publish. Some are gallant; some are not. Be honest. You’ll be a lot happier if you find your own personal satisfaction in the act of writing…which can spill over into sharing.
  • Writing can be a path to personal and community transformation. The new Transformative Language Arts movement has academic programs and an organization: - Goddard’s resource page for degrees in Transformative Language Arts. See also the Transformative Language Arts Network: . Goddard’s site is very, very good!