i. Publishing Poetry Makes You Rich
Publishing your poetry will make you rich in ways you
never imagined. It may not bring you a lot of money; but
money is only valuable when it can buy you what you really
want and need, and what you will appreciate after you have
If your problem is that your credit cards are maxxed,
and you want to buy a bigger house, poetry may not provide
the immediate relief you are hoping for. If you want to learn
to be more in tune with such intangibles as wisdom and
happiness, you are likely to find poetry more reliable than
money. But poetry may bring you some money, too, and that
can add to your happiness.
ii. Aren't There Unhappy Poets?
There certainly have been some unhappy poets, but
even the unhappy ones were richer because of their poetry.
Don't despair that your poetry is all of one type.
Poets, like artists, have periods or phases in their lives and
work. It is important to save all your writing so you can learn
to see these phases in yourself.
iii. Expect Cutting Critics And Supportive Friends
People ask whether they should publish their poetry.
They often write about the cutting comments by some critics
and the encouragement by friends. But critics are known for
their cutting and friends for their their support. Poets write
what is in them to write, and it almost always has a
If I ask people whether they like Mexican food I will
get many responses, but if I ask Mexicans if they like
Mexican food, they will look at me as if I am nuts. They know
that each Mexican family has preferences that do not allow
for the stereotyping generalization. If I look at the real world
I will find many kinds of restaurants; and people choose
iv. Do You Want To Express Your Feelings Or Ideas, Or Do You Just Want Applause?
If I intend to start a restaurant in my town, or publish
my poems in my local newspaper, I need to know the town
and the newspaper, or to know myself and take my chances.
But the restaurant that would fail in my home town might do
very well in another town or even a different part of town.
If I just want to cook for people, I am more likely to
find acceptance from my children. There are few people who
wouldn't eat Mom's or Dad's cooking. There are few
relatives who won't at least read a poet's poems.
v. You Don't Have To Satisfy The Whole Market, Just Find A Home For Your Poems
If you want to express yourself in poetry, it does not
matter as much how it fits into the market. It is your honest
expression for anybody who cares for the same things.
If on the other hand you want to sell fifty-thousand
copies of your book, you may have to learn more about
marketing strategies or just strike it lucky, randomly writing
what some publisher wants to promote at the moment.
Succeeding with such a random approach is about as likely
as getting struck by lightning. But if you want to be struck by
lightning, it helps to get out in the rain. If you have a book
manuscript you will need to have knowledge of how to seek
out the appropriate publisher and sell your idea.
vi. Did I Say Skill Is Not Important?
You will have a much greater chance of selling books
if you have skills in the established techniques of writing
poems. Don't let the lack stop you. Everyone starts with
many deficiencies. Everyone has a chance of developing
skills. You have to start with your own reasons and
motivation and pick up other elements along the way. You
don't need all the skills. Like the restaurant analogy,
everybody serves a different part of the market.
vii. Don't Let Somebody Else Make All The Rules For Your Writing
You are out to enrich your own life through poetry;
and it will work if you write what is important to you and then
work to improve it your way. After you have written, you
need to find people who value the same things you do. They
will publish your work. If you find them, they will provide
further guidance and encouragement far beyond the
criticism you may fear. Identifying the publishers who hate
your work will teach you how to avoid them in the future.
You may also pick up some tips from them.
viii. Expect Friends In Publishing: There Are People Like You, Just Waiting For You To Come Along
You should be aware of the difference between an
editorial response that is generally discouraging and one
that is generally encouraging. The encouraging one
although it rejects this batch of poems may be an invitation
to submit more. The discouraging one may be only a sign
you should not waste your time pursuing that particular
publisher. Both of these are helping you zero in on
publishers who will like what you write.
Remember that most poets and editors are interested
in good poetry and in helping writers improve. They are all
delighted by a well-written poem that says something they
would have liked to say.
ix. Read Widely: Know The Territory
Remember that some ideas are almost universal.
These ideas intrigue many writers. Some people think they
have an original idea when they are just remembering the
words of a song they have heard recently. Read poets who
have interests in common with you. Get familiar with their
writing; and discover how to say something that is very
individual to you. If you are saying a well-known truth, try to
say it in a new way. The golden rule has been restated by
thousands of poets in their own words as has the saying,
seize the day. There is a vast storehouse of seize the day
poetry. Feel free to add yours, but don't think you invented
the words, wake up and smell the roses. You will probably
find that there are many parodies of such phrases.
A great poet is first a voracious reader. If you intend
to get serious about writing poetry, start collecting and
reading books of poems. Nobody else will tell you about the
territory, you must explore it yourself.
x. Don't Wait: Poets Often Wait Too Long Before Publishing
Publishing should not be considered an end, or only
for the accomplished poet. It should be seen as an integral
part of every poet's development. Publish as soon as you
can. Editors will provide valuable insights into subtle
problems with the writing, and tips on where to go next.
Following the exercises in a college textbook is a valuable
pursuit for a developing poet. A class is even better. If you
see yourself as an experienced poet, you can still take a
class. The experienced poet is always a new learner; and
every new learner can learn more by teaching his ideas to
others. After you have learned from a few editors it may be
time to try some of the editors who previously rejected your
xi. Come On In: The Water's Fine
The division is not only between good and bad poets
but between active growing ones and static frozen ones.
Someone perceived as a great poet one year can be seen
as badly dated in just a few years if he does not grow in his
work. A really great poet is timeless. It is not necessary to
be able to read the future; just to say something that is
important to you. You do not need to worry about whether
the future will agree. Limericks are as popular as
Shakespeare. Who really knows whether Green Eggs and
Ham will last as long as Jabberwocky or even longer?
Every classic poem was once new and untested just like all
your unwritten and unpublished poems.