October filled up quickly — I put together a book manuscript and entered it in five different contests (was going to be four, but I couldn’t resist that last one) and also entered a contest for individual poems.
It was fun to dream, but now I have to write. I find I’m either writing a lot or submitting a lot — can’t do both at the same time and give both the kind of focus I’d like.
After some thought, I’ve decided I’m going to do the poem-a-day chapbook challenge again. If you don’t know what this is, Robert Brewer of Writer’s Digest posts a prompt on his blog, Poetic Asides, each day in November. Many people post their poems each day in the comments of his blog, and I did that last year, too.
If you’re less “publishy” than I am, either because you’re content to post poems and get lots of comments, or because you’re just getting started or restarted and don’t feel ready to submit to literary publications, then I would absolutely recommend posting poems there. It’s almost universally a very supportive environment, with maybe an ideological squabble here and there but lots of people who will read your work and give you very specific praise and only the most gently worded criticism.
Don’t think of it as a chapbook contest — it’s not (there’s no prize, other than acclaim). But it is a great way to make sure you write each day for a month. That’s why I’m doing it again, even though I plan to only post on Tuesdays, the same day I post for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.
Why hold back? While I was able to place some of the PAD poems I’d posted on Poetic Asides, different editors do have different ideas of what counts as “previously published,” and it was kind of a big deal to end the month with 30 poems that were a bit compromised.
Those who are interested in submitting for publication, I would never advise you to hold everything back and to never, ever post online in some form. Posting on your own blog, a poetry site, or some other online forum can be so gratifying, and again, you will find editors here and there who are willing to accept poems that have been posted. (Do disclose this, however, so there are no unpleasant surprises or hints of deceit — editors don’t like either of those.)
I would advise you, though, to think carefully about what your goals are, and to consider holding back a little something if you can. Do you just want to do the work and get (and give) some comments, and publication beyond the blogosphere doesn’t matter so much to you? Great — go for it! Do you write a bunch of poems, so you can easily spare one each day? Again, great — go for it! Otherwise, I would just say … think before you post, and consider maybe not giving away the whole show.
But what do I know? Ask me in a month, and I might say it felt parsimonious to follow the prompts but not share daily, and that it’s best to go into these things completely open, and hang the consequences. In any event, I intend to comment a lot and post weekly, and thus feel like I’m contributing a little something, and not just mooching the prompts.
Will I see you there? (Or will you be lurking, too?)