This column states more clearly than I ever could how poetry that does not fit inside ‘the box’ is not going to be published.
From the article:
Typically there are two types of aesthetics (following the MFA division of poetry into two major camps): the narrative/formally uninventive/epiphany-based confessional or memoiristic short poem, and the experimental/avant-garde/language poetry camp, which takes its inspiration from deconstruction and makes a fetish of the insensibility of ordinary language. A judge from one camp is never going to pick a book from another camp; it just doesn’t happen. The screeners know it, and hopefully the submitters know it too (unless they’re really stupid). Already a great deal of self-screening has taken place, and rapidly amplifies during the early stages of screening.
My poetry doesn’t fit within either of those two camps, and I don’t have an MFA (nor the time or opportunity or desire to get one).
I have been working on a chapbook for a few months now, and was planning on submitting it to some contests. Will I, now that I’ve read that article? Maybe, but with the awareness that it probably won’t get published.
When it comes right down to it, what I want is for people to read my writing. I would write even if no one ever saw it, but it’s a lot more fun writing to be read. Sometimes I consider self-publishing, but it seems like a lot of effort just to not be read — I don’t know if I could promote my book enough to get it into the hands of enough readers to be worth it.
Edited to add: Honestly, I’ll probably still enter contests. I wrote this feeling depressed, yet again, about my chances. But I do wish there was another way. Actually, there is another way, sending individual poems to poetry journals. I tried that. My poetry wasn’t good enough, and the journals highly recommend (sometimes require) you to read the journal ahead of time and/or have a subscription. I can’t afford multiple poetry journal subscriptions and the wasted paper makes me cringe. Living in the back of beyond (okay, not really, just hundreds of miles from a major metropolitan area) means that the local bookstores and library do not carry poetry journals. Anyway, enough of my rambling. If you’d like another perspective on the article I quoted above, here it is.
Have any of you been published? Was it by a traditional publisher, or self-published? Was it worth it?