Thursday 27 October 2022

Periodical priorities

  • "We don’t read submissions blind and that’s not going to change. I’m unconvinced that’s a particularly helpful strategy for ensuring balance" - Kathryn Gray (Bad Lilies). Anonymity is often suggested as a means to ensure fairness, but I can see that it hinders balance. I think that overall I'm in favour of some positive discrimination. If (say) only 10% of a poem in a magazine are by women, women might be unlikely to send to that magazine and the ratio won't improve. The self-perpetuating loop has to be broken somehow. All the same, I'd like to think that blind submissions are something to strive towards.
  • "we will publish poems that shock and unsettle. These poems will speak of trauma and injustice, because that is the world we live in. We will prioritize work that deals with issues of migration, economic injustice and freedom of speech" - André Naffis-Sahely (Poetry London editorial, Summer 2021). I don't know about the shock/unsettle aspect, but the magazine content matched the manifesto as far as I could tell. The prioritisation extended to the reviews, it seemed to me. I made a note of what received any adverse criticism. Issues are good, and are discussed at the expense of the poetry. Issue-less poetry by males was the most vulnerable.

Wednesday 12 October 2022


For a few months I've been blitzing the magazines - I've 13 stories, 3 flashes and 7 poems doing the rounds, some at places that charge submission fees. So far it hasn't gone well - just 3 acceptances, though I'm in profit having got $20 for a flash. I'm hoping to match my 2017 performance when I had 11 of my 17 poems published and 5 out of 14 stories - better than my lifetime acceptance rates of 1 in 3 for poems and 1 in 6 for prose. In the graph the blue line shows the number of poems written and the pink line shows poems accepted.

I've little left to send off - 1 good story and 2 so-so ones, 3 sub-200 flashes which are ok, and 2 poems that somebody might like - so while I await the rejections I'm trying to write new stuff because to some extent success in magazines is a numbers game: the more you send off, the more acceptances you get. Quantity as well as quality has always been an issue for me - many years I don't manage to write a poem a month. On the other hand, the graph above shows what might happen if I relax quality control: 2013 stands out as a year where I wrote far more than I published - I wrote more than usual but it was rubbish.

Saturday 8 October 2022

Future Karaoke #1

On June 7th at Anglia Ruskin University Jon Stone organised an event where people picked an animal from the list he provided and wrote a poem inspired by it. It was a hybrid evening - there were Zoom participants and listeners.

The series of events is a chance for ARU students to meet local writers - and maybe one day for the other university to join in too. Readers included Claudine Toutoungi, Anne Berkeley, Kirsty Irving, etc. In future there might be video poems, or a live/video hybrid.

Having now attended 3 poetry events in a fortnight I'm beginning to form some generalisations about how much I'll like a open mic poem based on the age/gender of poet, type of introduction, length of poem etc. I know I have a terribly short attention span when listening to poems, but all the same, some of the pieces sounded long to me, even the ones that the poets described as "short". When a poet approaches the mike saying "Just 2 short poems. Is that ok?" trouble's ahead. Or more ominous still, "this began as a poem but it turned into a short story".

Thursday 6 October 2022

National Poetry Day

I went to the event at Waterstones, Cambridge. Mina Gorji was the headliner, and "Environment" the subject. Some CB1 mainstays were there too. I thought Lindsay Fursland's set worked best in the situation - punchy and entertaining. The open mike session was varied - not all the pieces were too long, though several of the introductions were. Nice to see a full house.