by poet, Daljit Nagra
1. When trying to publish individual poems, send 4 – 6 poems with a SAE to a journal. Mention something about your background if it seems relevant; avoid explaining the poems as this may seem patronising.
b) Expect to be rejected. Be very pleased if a poem is accepted.
c) Expect to wait several months for a reply. If an editor writes a comment or makes any personal form of communication with you then it might be worth considering the rejection as an invitation to send more poems.
2. The more esteemed journals include: LRB, TLS, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The North, The Rialto, Stand, Poetry Wales. Other good journals include: Magma, Smiths Knoll, Wasafiri, Soundings.
3. Read the poetry magazines for several reasons, but also to determine which magazines might be sympathetic to your work.
4. Enter poetry competitions. These are a bit of a lottery so be persistent. Look at some competition winners and see if there is any pattern about the sort of poem that wins competitions. Competitions where the first prize is £1000 or more are more likely to have a good reputation. Join the Poetry Library (South Bank, London) mailing list; they will email you a monthly update of the latest competitions and other invaluable poetry news.
5. With regards to book publication, send either a sample of work (10 -15 poems) or a complete manuscript. Send a SAE and a covering letter with your achievements in poetry, your background etc. Or whatever you regard as relevant. You could write to the publisher first to see if they are taking new manuscripts so you do not end up wasting your time.
6. The ‘big’ publishers are interested in publishing poetry which is about non-white-English society. There is no harm in trying Faber and Faber, Jonathan Cape, Bloodaxe, Carcanet etc.
a. As far as I’m aware Picador do not take unsolicited manuscripts but their editor relies on word of mouth and personal judgment based on what is good poetry that has been published in magazines and pamphlets.
b. Faber tend to do a first print run of 2000 or more, Jonathan Cape tend to do 1000 (as Robin Robertson stated in Poetry Society’s Newsletter last year). Most publishers will do a much smaller print run. This should give you an idea of how much exposure a collection might get, so be patient, bide your time and hold out for a bigger publisher.
c. I had to wait about a year before Faber and Faber initially rejected my manuscript. When I re-sent an improved manuscript, I had to wait at least another half year.
7. Try publishing a poetry pamphlet prior to publishing a full collection. The exposure can help you for when it comes to a full collection. Try the Smith/Doorstop Pamphlet competition, and there are many other excellent pamphlet publishers such as Templar, Tall Lighthouse etc.