Submission Prompts

Poets are great at rejection.

I spend a fair amount of time talking to other writers – but the majority are not poets (or not just poets) and I think that poets have a unique perspective on rejection. Because very few poets have agents, you are always the front line for rejection and there is a LOT of it. To get a collection published you need to have magazine and small press credits. Anything you post on personal blogs often can’t be submitted to magazines/ezines/competition and you need to submit between fifty and a hundred poems each year to really keep yourself in the game. Add to that the fact that poetry is so subjective and you never know which editors are likely to find something in your work.

That’s a lot of rejection. Most of the time it’s fine and you very quickly get used to the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letters and emails. However, it can feel a bit galling when you have written a piece for a specific theme. I’ve done everything from hospitals to immigration, animals and ghosts. There is however one way of seeing all of this as a good thing.

Using submission themes as writing prompts is a great way to keep your creativity on its toes. Take the theme and write several pieces about it – make each poem different and try out new techniques or styles that you think will suit the magazine or book that you are sending it to. Rather than just sending in something that you have already written that will fit, try to write something new, see the themes as a way of stretching yourself.

And then when you get the rejections you know that you have gained something from it even if you don’t get a publication credit to add to the list. Trying out new ideas, for me, is what poetry is all about and I love seeing very specific submission themes because it means that I have a new challenge to work on.


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