You’ve filled up whole notebooks with your words, shared them with a workshop or a few close friends, and, now, you’re ready to push past the fear and find a larger stage for your writing. First of all, congratulations. Many writers, no matter how far along in their education or craft they may be, never muster up the confidence to reach this point. Since you’ve brought the persistence, Read Poetry is here to break down the process: when it comes to making your poetry heard, here’s where to start.
Why should I share my work?
Throughout my fledgling writing career, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to classes of writing students. My top piece of advice never falters — it’s important to share your writing as often as possible because it’s the only way people will know what you can actually do. Sure, you can call yourself a writer, but no matter how assured you sound, this won’t result in career moves, book deals, and productive, valuable connections — the things every writer wants and needs. If you can back up your claims with credentials, like publications and a clear presence in the writing community, you’ll be more empowered to carve out the flourishing writing life you crave.
Where should I share my work?
When I was younger, I used to publish my poems as notes on Facebook. Fortunately, I’m now more educated on the publishing and copyrighting process. You don’t need to have a law degree to be smart about where you post your work, but you should know the basics. Namely, posting your writing on social media can mean it legally counts as already published and therefore deems it off-limits for the many magazines and journals that might love your work.
Instead, let those magazines and journals have the first look. You can find promising potential publishers by researching your favorite poets. Where have their poems landed? Try submitting to those publications. Similarly, does your writing fit a special niche or frequently address a prevailing theme? Look for journals that cater to those populations and interests, whether it’s compelling portrayals of the LGBT experience, multilingual poetry, or something else that stands out as your beautiful, unique strength. In addition to submitting to individual publications, you can also find contests to enter on websites like Poets & Writers, The Writer, and Submittable.
Alongside publishing, giving performances or readings can bolster your writerly credibility (as well as be seriously rewarding and fun). Search for poetry slams and open mics online and using social media. If you want to give a more structured reading, think of literary spaces in the community and sites where you might have attended readings, author talks, and signings. Oftentimes, just broaching your interest in giving a reading with a local bookstore cashier or coffee shop owner could be the first step. In addition to serving as career milestones, readings and open mics can be great testing grounds for new poems. Often times, just hearing the words aloud, as well as the responses of others, can direct your revision process.
Lastly, having an updated, organized website with previous publications, a bio, and even a blogging component can help you book readings and other opportunities.
How can I share my work effectively?
Revise, revise, revise. Before you send off your work to be considered for publication, make sure it’s as strong as possible. Check for cliches and places where you could infuse more creative imagery. Evaluate if the form is functioning effectively. Does each line add meaning to the poem, or do you need to be more concise? (Bonus: For an expanded revision checklist, read our “5 Steps to Writing a Hard-Hitting Poem” article.)
After you hit send or get up on stage, be confident and proud of your efforts. To put it honestly, being a poet means contending with a lot of rejection. Keep trying — not every audience is the right audience. In the meantime, consider making a document or spreadsheet to track acceptances, rejections, and response times.
Your work will be out in the world soon enough — and we can’t wait to read it!