So … What Do I Do in May?

NaPoWriMo is humming along … I can’t believe we’re on day 21 already. Because I’m also doing Robert Brewer’s Poem-a-Day Challenge, this has been a very busy and fun month. I came late to NaPoWriMo, and during the time when I was catching up, I realized that while writing Facebook posts or articles for my real job, I was thinking about things like line breaks and rhyme.

By the end of this month, I will have written 60-some poems that are all posted on blogs — this one and Brewer’s. So … what does that mean? I do like to submit for publication, and editors seem to be all over the map as far as what they consider to be “previously published” and thus, dead on arrival as far as they’re concerned. I knew this. I posted anyway. 

The thing is, posting poems scratches some of the same itches for me as publication does. Some … but not all. In fact, in terms of feedback and connection with other writers and … get this — people who like poetry but don’t write it themselves — posting has proven to be a way more effective itch scratcher than the whole submit-and-wait routine.

But … I do like having the imprimatur of someone else’s approval. I do, I do, I do. “Someone else,” as in an editor who sifts through however many submissions and selects what he or she considers to be the tippy-top, best of the best, creme de la creme, ne plus ultra (or … “This one would go well with that other one we accepted from someone else.” or … “This one’s OK and would fit the funny little space we have on page 5.”). You get the picture. I am an approval hound. I love (LOVE!) blog comments, but I also love (LOVE!) acceptance letters. 

Even if I am, in terms of future publishability, throwing away 60-some poems this month, I would never say that’s a waste. It feels somewhat thrilling, in fact, to gleefully toss out something that is so precious (in terms of the labor that goes into each one, and the fact that each is a singular event that will never happen again).

Also, I have found some editors here and there who don’t consider blog posts to count as publication. In recent months, I’ve submitted some of my November Poem-a-Day efforts, always disclosing that they were posted on Brewer’s blog. Results have been mixed … but then, they always are.

Still, I’m not sure what I’m going to do once this double-challenge month comes to a close. I don’t think I can keep posting as frequently as I have been, but I don’t want to pull way back and stop posting poems altogether, because it has been immensely gratifying to connect with an audience, read other poets’ great work, and feel a lot less isolated as a poet than I did before. 

On a related note, I have a pressing need to get a chapbook published. I’m at a stage where I’m somewhat reliably getting individual poems published here and there — which is so gratifying, but it’s starting to feel a bit scatteredy. And then, on the blessed day when my contributor’s copy arrives in the mail (for most poets, including me, this is also known as “payday”), I look at the other bios, and *everyone else* has a chapbook or two, or a full collection. Or seven of them. 

I wonder … should I put most of my energy in May into pulling together a chapbook? I would still want to submit individual poems here and there, as the spirit moves me, but it might be fun to sloooooow doooooown, take the time to consider past works, and really focus on putting together something cohesive.

On a somewhat related note — because in chapbooks, it’s understood that some/many of the poems will have been previously published — I wonder what makes sense as far as how often to post poems here? I do post each Wednesday at Brewer’s blog, even during non-challenge times. Maybe once a week here, too, and then I’ll hoard any others that I write next month, and thus resume being at least a little bit coy about this whole thing?

Poets, during non-NaPoWriMo times, how often do you post poems on your blog or someone else’s? And how does that compare with the number of poems you hold back? Those of you who are playing the same game of Publication Poker that I am — as opposed to essentially self-publishing everything via your blog — what has your experience been, vis a vis the viability of poems that you’ve posted?

Many thanks to all of you … for all the comments and poems and good times this month, and also for any thoughts regarding your blogging/submitting cycle between one NaPoWriMo and the next!


12 thoughts on “So … What Do I Do in May?

  1. You’ve got a comments box. I have comments!

    (and these are completely out of order with your musings): this is the digital age, so why can’t you call a tab on your website “Chapbook”? (Serious question. After all, there might be rules a non-poet like me would not know about.) Once you have enough for a second chapbook, two tabs (and so on). If you hope to make money from a chapbook, then the tab can become where you plan, preview, promote.

    I teach writing and some lit. Before family obligations forced a change, I worked for a consulting company editing clients’ reports to governmental agencies. Does that give me enough ethos to send you an email explaining which of your poems I can’t wait to publish? Because if that will make you feel critically accepted and not just comment scratched, I am happy to do it!

    p.s., wow, a fellow “P,” aren’t you? Your post reads the way my own brainstorming goes sometimes.

    • Thanks very much, Complynn! I appreciate your advice … and yes, please to the email about ones you like (today’s mail brought a rejection notice, so …). And no matter how many times I take those tests, I come out as a “J.” Just call me Judgey McJudgerson, I guess. Thanks again!

  2. I don’t have nearly as much direction in my poetry as you do. I did a vanity publishing of my first collection of poetry on, but I haven’t drummed-up the courage or motivation to get my work published by others. If you have any nuggets of wisdom for me, I’d welcome any advice you can give.

    • Barry, I am a big fan of Poet’s Market. There are websites that list various publications, too, but for me, there’s something about going through a physical book. Look for publications whose descriptions look interesting and that seem to be open to poets at whatever level you feel you are, and that seem to appreciate the same things you do. Visit their websites, find copies in your library, and order sample copies when you can. Read through those to get a sense of whether your work would be a good fit. Look at the author bios to get a sense of where else these poets have been published. Then submit, submit, submit. Do it in large enough batches (but following guidelines about simultaneous submissions) that any rejections you get won’t sting as much. Keep writing, keep reading, keep submitting. Then you’ll get your first “in,” which will give you the boost you need to keep at it. In time, you’ll refine your approach and get a much clearer sense of what publications are a good match for you. You’ll still get rejections (I got one today), but your average will improve. It has helped me greatly to think of it almost like a game or a sport, and a very different process from my writing process. There are two different mindsets involved, and that way, too, you realize that what’s in question isn’t the quality of your work as much as whether you’re finding the right matches. Good luck!

  3. As I read your post, I kept nodding and saying “Uh-huh,” “Ditto,” “Check,” “Yup,” “Right,” and “Exactly.” By which I mean, I’ve been thinking about these same issues–and arriving at very much the same conclusions–as you. I wholeheartedly agree that compiling those posted-and-sort-of-published-but-not-juried-by-professional-litmag-editors-or-whatever poems into one or more chapbook manuscripts is a really good next step.

    For myself, I anticipate a bit of a let-down in my energy after NaPoWriMo ends, and looking forward to a busy revising and submitting period seems like a good way to keep the positive momentum going.

    And, the fact is, while it’s increasingly difficult to get a book of *any* length into print, the number of chapbook contests and publishers is large. It seems to me to be the most worthwhile avenue for trying to get a (mini-) manuscript published.

    I’m curious to hear what other poets do with their sheaves of NaPoWriMo poems…

  4. songsville says:

    What a great post, thank you … I am only pretending to be a poet, but as a songwriter there are definitely parallel issues … I just completed February Album Writing Month and many of my fellow fawmers also debate the merits of putting material out on (which is great) versus getting physical CDs printed — many do both — though a few of us have ended up with piles of unsold CDs glowering at us in the attic …. 🙂 …

    I think for me it’s just the pleasure of the process, of tapping into that creative spirit — but a significant side issue is the urge to do something ‘proper’ that you can show friends what your wierd obsession is, and that does mean a physical object that you can gift or pass around or even sell …

    The process of sifting through past work to gather an album or collection is quite good for self-improvement too — you are your own best critic really, deep down you know which ones are the good ones … and I’m finding that this drives the rewriting process, something I’ve been bad at but am slowly coming to appreciate …

    Anyway happy poeming and thanks for hosting this little dicussion …


    • You’re more than welcome, Edwin … and thank you for your thoughts here. Honestly, I think things will be a little different for me after NaPoWriMo. I’ve had so much fun sharing poems and reading others’ and commenting back and forth that I’m wondering if that’s the main point of writing, for me — to create, share, and enjoy … instead of investing the whole submission process with such desperation and high stakes. What if that process were — instead of the way I prove my worth as a poet — just one of a few different ways I share my work?

      Don’t get me wrong … I don’t think I’m going to give up submitting through conventional channels. There is something about that stamp of approval, and having a concrete “thing” in hand (God bless the remaining print publications). But this has been so rewarding, too! Truly. Much more than I ever imagined.

      It’s so interesting to hear your perspective as a songwriter. I think all creative people are now trying to navigate this brave new world — and how much we want to retain of the old one.

  5. Still working this out … Now I’m not writing at all, except for the Open Link Night stuff. I have lots of background chatter in my life just now, but I hope I can get back in some kind of rhythm again soon. It might involve a weekly post and then everything else held back, all secret-like. Maybe Brewer’s weekly form challenge, Open Link Night, and then everything else is for my eyes only? Which is all well and good, as long as I write the “everything else.” Which I’m not, currently.

  6. I came to this again to add… I agree, I love this time of season to write my heart out; but I’m not quite sure poems on my blog would work for -publishing… I love your writing very clean,smart and funny too..Thanks for stopping in… My dream is to publish a book of poetry one day soon…Many blessings to you only 2 days left in NaPoWriMO

    • Awww, thanks! I love your work, too, and I’ve been glad to get to know it — and you — this month. Your work often has such a strong voice and presence to it. You write “big” in a way that I really admire. I know what you mean about blogging/publishing. Outside of April and November (when I do another daily prompt thing). my usual is to post one poem a week and, in theory, to write others that I hold back. Over the years, I have had a few poems published that appeared here first — I disclose it from the beginning so I’m not trying to hide anything. What’s your next move? I think I’m going to take a few days off and then probably try to find a theme to write about for a month or so. Take care, and I hope to see you around even now that NaPoWriMo is done. 🙂

      • I am so grateful for your reply: Thank you so much. I really enjoy reading your work-Marilyn: such thrill, descriptive, gentle and simplistic. My next move is to write off line and finish this -fictional novel and Poems that I have not put on my blog; build up the heart and submit it somewhere… Thanks for the tip -if I do use any of these written online I’ll disclose up front. You will surely see me, I’ll be stopping in..Much love to you…Many blessings..

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