I recently spent some time researching different literary journals, both print and online. I wanted to find out two things: first I wanted to find out which journals my poetry might be a good match for, and second I wanted to find out what their submission process was like. I've never submitted anything before, so it felt like this giant insurmountable wall that separated me from "real writers". What I found was actually a really simple program that many publications share, in which you can electronically submit your work. Once you've done it for one publication, it becomes pretty easy to quickly submit your work to publications that use the same type of format.
So I climbed that wall. I submitted a few poems to some journals that seemed like they might be interested in the subject matter I had written about. While I was at it, and feeling pretty successful and slightly overconfident, I decided to go ahead and submit to a couple of publications that would honestly, not be interested in a no name poet, like myself. I've already received my first rejection email from one of them (thank you The New Yorker)! Really, I should print it out and frame it so that when I'm a widely published poet I can look back at my early days in attempting to get published and remember a time when even The New Yorker didn't want me.
But really what I wanted to talk about was the issue of self-publishing. Writer's write. I'm not sure who said that originally, but its pretty much the definition of a writer, whether or not you're published. For me, getting into the habit of writing everyday may not be as painful as trying to get into the habit or running after I haven't run in over a year, but it's maybe just as difficult as getting myself into that sport's bra and motivating myself to leaving the house. Writing is a muscle that has to be exercised and time to write has to be made. Well, I've got time. Plenty of time. That was sort of the purpose of moving to Portland and taking some time off. I started out writing for about an hour every morning while I drank my coffee. It didn't matter what I wrote about, so long as I was writing. Then, when I wanted to carve out a time to write more creatively, I started going to the bakery around the corner that has a big outdoor patio. That worked pretty well but I can't go to a bakery every day. I just can't. With plans to check out as many local coffee shops as I could to find the best writing spots, I thought about the idea of starting a blog in which I had to contribute a poem a day. Having readers (ahem) to be responsible to, who would wake each morning, hungry for a new poem, would give me a good reason to write every day. That was the idea.
After doing some online research, I found that there is a big debate in the poetry world about whether or not posting your poems on your blog counts as having been previously published. Pretty much all of the journals I had researched specifically state that they only accept previously unpublished work- but they don't all say whether or not self publishing counts. I mean, really, if I were to publish a poem here, would anybody know? It's only slightly less debatable than a tree falling in a forest when there's no one around to hear it. Who would read it? Me.
In a world where poets can't just be poets, where typical book of poetry is about as thick as an issue of Martha Stewart Living (its sitting right next to me on my mom's counter), where actual print is becoming outdated, should poets have to hide their work from the public until some editor deems it worthy? Artists can show their work at any number of galleries, why can't poets share their poems on a blog that has no sponsorship and even fewer readers than your average poetry journal? It seems that editors are pretty split on this issue, and until I do some more research into journals that do accept work that's been published on a blog, I'm not going to share my poems with you (I mean "you" loosely, as I'm probably the only one who's reading my blog at this point).