How Do I Publish Poetry?

Tara Barnett

Trying to publish poetry can be extremely frustrating, but the simple key to getting poetry published is persistence. Every person will be touched by a different kind of poetry, so there is no single "correct" way to write poetry that will make publication more likely. Finding a magazine, anthology, or other publication that is a good fit for your poetry is also important, as different types of publications tend to publish poetry that feels very different. Research into the kinds of poetry that are popular and working to build up an impressive history of publications can make it easier to get published, but many poets find that staying true to a personal vision wins out over getting published most of the time.

Contests may be an ideal way to submit poetry.
Contests may be an ideal way to submit poetry.

The first step to getting your poetry published is writing poems. If you have been writing for a long time, then selecting from poems that have already been written is the best strategy. On the other hand, a person who has only just begun to write poetry may have better success working diligently on a single poem until that poem is satisfactory, then moving on to the next one. Most poetry publications ask for several poems in a single submission, so it is a good idea to have more than one poem that you would like to publish.

Creative journals are a good way to get poems published.
Creative journals are a good way to get poems published.

Submitting poetry is the most important part of trying to publish poetry, but it is also the most frustrating. Many poetry publications can take months to respond to submissions, although there are some that respond faster. It is a good idea to cast a wide net and submit to many different publications, always making sure to follow the guidelines provided by each publication. In order to publish poetry, you must get used to following strict submission guidelines so that the writing rather than the formatting can shine.

Poetry may be collected and printed in a book.
Poetry may be collected and printed in a book.

While it might seem oversimplified, submitting poetry is the only way to publish poetry. The submission process has a number of different aspects, including dealing with rejection and anticipation. Some magazines are more prestigious than others, and getting into publications with lower barriers to entry can help build up a poet's portfolio of published work. Finding online journals, anthologies, contests, and other places that will publish poetry also helps poets learn about work that is currently popular, and may improve the poet's craft overall.

One alternative to this endless cycle of submitting poetry is to publish your own poetry, although this is sometimes less satisfying than having work accepted for publication. If you decide to publish your own poetry, it is usually best to format the poems in a small book of some sort or put them online. Marketing this type of book is often difficult, but some people find success on this path. Even people who self-publish poetry often find that it is a good idea to continue to submit to other publications, as these other publications can provide publicity for a self-published book.

Keeping a collection of your poetry in a journal or notebook is a good way to amass poems for potential publication.
Keeping a collection of your poetry in a journal or notebook is a good way to amass poems for potential publication.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - I would also like to add that reading poetry and critiquing other people's poetry is a very good way to get better and eventually to build contacts which can help you to get published.

It often seems like there are more aspiring poets out there than people who actually read poetry and that's just silly. Why would you expect others to read it if you don't?


@umbra21 - What I suggest to anyone who doesn't have a very good critiquing partner or group is to give their poetry to as many people as will read it. Put it out on forums, give it away, put it anywhere that you can get feedback.

Remember that if you publish it online in any way, it can't be published in a journal unless they accept reprints. But if you can't get quality critiques then what you should try to get is quantity.

Because if 75 people out of a hundred say they have a problem with the second line, then you know it's something you have to work on to publish that poetry. Not a single one of them might know how to fix the problem, but they will identify it for you and that's usually what's needed.


In between writing and submitting poems you could try to get some feedback from beta readers. This is difficult to manage because it's very rare for someone who likes to write poetry to have access to a critique partner who actually knows their stuff.

Giving it to your mother or best friend doesn't really count, because they simply can't be objective.

A writer's forum can help, as many of them have sections for critiquing. A class in poetry is often very beneficial in terms of feedback from other poets.

It can be very difficult to hear people talking about your poems but it's tough to get better if you aren't willing to listen to a potential audience. You don't have to accept everything, but it is good practice for when you publish your poetry, as editors often want changes as well.

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