5 Way of Getting Your Poems Noticed by an Editor

by a contributor

from Tim Suermondt, author of Fearing for the Astronauts:

  1. Have at least one poem in your packet that’s about poetry and/or the writing of poems. I know, they say they hate it, but they’re not being entirely truthful: what self-respecting editor doesn’t agree with James Dickey, who said: “Poetry is the greatest goddamn thing in the Universe.” Well, you get the point. Flaunt “poetry” a little—it will do you and the editor, and your readers, good.
  2. Before you send in a poem about your grandmother or an angel, make them as sexy as you can. I realize it’s hard to do with a grandmother, but you’re a poet after all. Angels are much easier: look at them flying around in skimpy dress, sitting provocatively on a cloud. They’d love your erotic attention.
  3. Include a poem dealing with a historical figure—it will give you some gravitas and show that you’re not just interested in writing about yourself to the exclusion of just about anything else. Robert Lowell, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln are good ones to choose. Hitler and the like not so good. Your historical figure can still be living, but avoid Lindsay Lohan. Maybe try the Pope instead.
  4. One of your poems should complain about how horrible the world is, and one of your poems should celebrate how wonderful the world is. Remember Adam Zagajewski’s claim that every line of a poem holds both tragedy and joy.
  5. Since, unlike Richard Wilbur, I’ve had poems rejected (unbelievable as it sounds), ignoring all of this is fine. But it won’t get you in any better with the editors. Trust me.