How to Publish Your Poems --- And Have Fun At the Same Time
When I was little, my family loved to take long road trips. In late summer, my sister, parents and I would load up the Pontiac and head for our cousins in St. Louis --- by way of Niagara Falls. Perhaps to buy themselves some peace, perhaps because the giant cards were free from AAA, my parents taught us to play the license plate game.
I think it was the bright colors on the different plates or the speed with which the cars raced by but somehow I fell in love. It was as if my stamp albums had taken flight. That same sense of adventure and travel. I remember the out-of-body thrill of seeing Alaska soar by --- I saw it first, not my older sister.
Many years later, when I first started sending out my poems, I needed a way to enjoy this somewhat humbling task. I started with journals in states I'd never been -- the Alaska Quarterly Review was one of the first journals to accept my work. Receiving the letter at my apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was thrilled. Since that time I've moved from the East Coast to Oregon and later, South Africa. I worked in Bosnia Herzegovina and Gaza but I' never stopped playing my own version of license plate poetry.
This version of submitting my work kept me from taking the submission process too seriously; it was just a game! Perhaps the New Yorker said no, but Roger in Rhode Island said yes -- in what looks to be their final issue. I wonder how other writers decide where to send their work? For me, focusing on the map made sense. It was as if I were traveling my own poetic globe, playing the publishing game in my own way.
As of today, there is one more state to go. Hello, Kansas!
I'll admit to a feeling of dread when I think the game might be up. It's been 18 years since I began publishing poems across the country and I'm not sure what I'll do when the map is complete. Most likely, I'll start on a world map. I've got Canada, Ireland and Slovenia down, just a few more countries to go...