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The positives of submitting less to magazines

I recently came across this blog post by Naush Sabah about why we send our poems to magazines (or not). I’m in agreement with her on just about all of it, although I needed telling some things; for example:

You needn’t seek to publish every poem you write. Some work is for the drawer, some work is for an audience of one or two friends, some work is better within a book, some work is for the trash and, if you’re lucky, a key to unlock the next piece of writing.

It hasn’t been a conscious thing, but when I think about it, I can put most poems I write these days into one of these categories. I haven’t been sending out as many poems to magazines as I used to, and among those I have sent not many have been accepted. I’ve been a bit disillusioned about this to be honest.

And yet at the same time I can see that quite a few of these poems belong with others in order to have the impact I’m after. In other words, in a collection.

A few might even be poems I should be treating as stepping stones to the actual poem I’m after, the ‘key to unlocking the next piece of writing’ that Naush talks about in her piece.

A funny thing to be saying, given my unofficial role as cheerleader for submitting to magazines. I still believe in the magazines, and still encourage people to send in their poems. But it’s what I’ve always said: it’s not a strategy that suits everyone all the time. Goals and ambitions change.

Which reminds me, Sarah Salway interviewed me recently about submitting to magazines, for her lovely Everyday Words project. Sarah is a powerhouse of creativity, and if you haven’t seen it before, do watch this excellent TED talk she gave in 2019, ‘In praise of everyday words’:

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Published inBlogInspirationInterviewsMags & BlogsSubmissionsWriting

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Robin. What a great new way to look at submissions. I’ve never scattered gunned, but I do find submitting helps me go that extra mile with editing a poem. So for that alone, I’m glad to have a shot. I really enjoyed your article in the latest Alchemy Spoon, by the way. Good luck with the novel!

  2. Susan Baury Rouchard Susan Baury Rouchard

    Thank you so much Robin for this article. Yes, disillusionment is certainly part of my personal failure to submit more often. There are only a certain amount of rejections we can “take” as writers. Collections are a different kettle of fish. Most of my tutors over the years have insisted that over half of the poems in a collection should have been published individually before being submitted in a group.
    As still yet to have a collection or even a chapbook published, I find this rather daunting. It appears as the eternal vicious circle of how to be read when not known and how to get know without being published.
    As a writer in English and French, living in France without having gone through the whole MA in creative writing process in either country, I feel pretty isolated. So apart from publishing on my blog writings that could have been published to at least get some feedback and participating in one French writing workshop, there is only so much my family can do to encourage me. English-speaking friends around me being nearly non-existant.
    I also agree with the draw and poem to be developed into something bigger, although, for me, short is beautiful. However, the trash is never an option; I may cross everything out, but I hate throwing away….a little like books… Over time perspective changes and new treasures seem to appear. The syndrome of the poem never finished …IYSWIM.
    Keep up with the good job and a million thanks for your monthly list.

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Robin Houghton 2021