When I send out poems for publication I look for a trifecta of things (+2) that have made me happy in the past. Do you have a list of things that make you go through the permutations of cover letter, bio, final revisions of revised poems? The longer I do this, the longer this whole process seems to take. And that's why when I find a magazine like December, it makes me want to share the news!
1. Most importantly, the magazine must be physically gorgeous. Call me shallow but I do judge a journal by its cover. And its font, quality of paper, layout. I want to know that a good deal of care and yes, love, went into the making of this object. There are 1,000s of literary journals publishing today. You get to choose where to send your work. The poem you perhaps worked on for years deserves the best!
2. In this world, I want my poems to also have some on-line presence. While December selects a few poems to place on their website (and mine wasn't one of them this time) they do have a user friendly site. At the end of this post I will share the beginnings of the the two poems I published in their recent issue so you can get a sense of their taste although the journal a a whole showcases diverse talents and tastes. As an aside, The Baltimore Review publishes every poet on-line and in an annual journal. I should say, however, that their annual journal is not as elegant as December. But they also pay in gift cards!
3. Cool fellow poets. This one's self explanatory. I love being in the same issue with friends or poets that I look up to. My poet friends and I are always trading sources and so it's imperative to read the journal before you send them your work!
4. Payment. Yes, I want to be compensated for my work in the exchange material that our culture values. And no, $20 for a poem is not an hourly fee. I don't believe anyone who writes poetry does it for the money. (Okay I once met a Zimbabwean poet who told me he was getting rich off his poetry but that's a different story.) I worked on "Binocular Vision" for many years and so even a small check feels as if the world is valuing my poem a little more. I did come across a press recently that gives all their books away for free as long as the reader makes a donation to an organization of her choice or passes the book along. I like this model, too --- although the funding must be all donations?
5. And this last one might be a bit more controversial. I look for a woman editor. Thank you Gianna Jacobson! Yes, gender matters. In my decades and decades of sending work to journals and being published in all 50 states, I've noticed that women editors tend to be more communicative, more generous in offering small but important edits, and more interested in my work. I know there are many exceptions to this statement. For example, Rick Barot at New England Review and Peter Grimes at Pembroke Magazine are two exemplary editors and people.
For many years I sent my poems out to play the License Plate Game --- wanting to have a poem wandering every state in the country. When I finished that project (it took about 20 years off and on) I needed some other guide for where I wanted my work to appear. These guidelines are my current map to the wondrous world of lit magazines. I'd be curious to know how you make your choices!
And here are the first few stanzas of my two poems in this month's December. If you like what you see, you can purchase a copy on their website!
What happens to a zygote
who never becomes—
no cartilage to deliver back
to the ground; no evening
meals for the earth-
worm, no morning glory?
Today is your Happy Non-
Birthday, 31 – perhaps
you would have developed
into a geologist or lounge singer—
keen observer of the disappearing
life. I imagine you the way
politicians often fantasize
about their voters: illogically and
with a little greed.
I had you and then
suddenly, didn’t have you.
My insides retracted
(to be continued in December)
They locked me up and then
here in the rope-cold dark
I stammer a calligraphy of fears;
I listen to a cinema
of laughter and then its silence.
This will be my life.
The subtitles of something—
terror, imagination, flare
across my throat. I am not yet
four, trapped in the attic eaves
as I decipher
my sister’s half-words
(to be continued in December)