“Publication — is the Auction / Of the Mind of Man — “
I must admit I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sending out poems to awards and periodicals. Actually, that’s not true. It’s more of a hate-hate relationship. The difficulty lies on two fronts: practical and psychological. So, this weekend, determined to let a few more poems from my manuscript finally have a chance at seeing the light of day, I enlisted my wife’s help. She, after all, sees nothing unusual about sending poems she likes to journals with a similar sensibility, and waiting patiently for the reply. After all, they are not her poems.
For me, it’s been a morass of spreadsheets and angst. Though otherwise detail-oriented, I found rounding up the information necessary to send off poems akin to a multivariable calculus exam. You see, the mind-games and doubt have somehow transformed a mildly laborious process into something Kafkaesque. So, making the process simple and methodical has been a key for me to stick with it. Poems, after all, don’t publish themselves.
My process involves maintaining spreadsheets: of poems I have already sent out, when, to whom; and of journals that might like my work. I have recently taken to rating them by the degree to which I think the sensibilities of the periodical might match my own, and by my perception of their reputability. So, then I sort the list (sensibility first, reputability second), and ratchet down one by one, checking submission periods, guidelines, and the number and format of poems to send.
For choosing the poems, I pick from a folder on my computer of poems I both think are done, and are worth publishing. I have a a single, huge document full of continuous writing, and a separate folder with individual files of single poems from that document with which I would like to tinker before declaring them done. Once done, if they’re good, they make it either to a place I call “fossils” (i.e. stuff I might mine later, but not worth publishing) or the to-publish folder I mentioned above. Once the to-publish folder starts looking really full, a combined sense of guilt and duty prompts me to submit a few poems.
This is my method. I have tried to make it as simple as possible so that, like the tasks assigned to astronauts waddling through the vacuum of space, the procedures are so methodical and well-rehearsed that I can execute them even when gazing into the yawning black void. I’d love to know what other people do, what works — both practically and psychologically — to keep putting work out there for consideration. Do you view it as a necessary evil? A pleasant delight? Do you have some other system that really works?
Like it or not, in the end, sending out poems is a part of the process. Making that process bonehead-simple, and doing it even (sometimes especially) when I would rather, instead, be writing a new poem or, better yet, wasting time on Facebook, is an exercise in detachment, perseverance, and yes, you guessed it, continuing to hope.