Thursday 11 July 2024

Berkeley, Bugan and Yoseloff

Today I went to a poetry event where Tamar Yoseloff (I've recently read her "Belief Systems"), Anne Berkeley (I thought her "River" poem was the best of the evening - looking back at my notes about her book, I note that I liked it when I first read it) and Carmen Bugan (new to me) read and did a Q&A session. The latter 2 poets had written several of their poems during lockdown.

The event was organised by the ARU's excellent Cambridge Writing Centre.

Thursday 4 July 2024

The book/magazine hierarchy

When I read a poetry/story book where few of the pieces have been previously published, my first reaction is "if they're not good enough to get into magazines, why should they be preserved in a book?" I then wonder about how many of the pieces are padding, there only so that the few good pieces can be sold in a book-length package.

But now that e-mail and submittable has helped to increase the number of magazine submissions by an order of magnitude or so, magazines may not be as reliable gatekeepers as before. On X recently Matthew Stewart pointed out that "Submittable lends itself to poems that generate an immediate impact. There's no time for a poem to grow on an editor, for apparent simplicity to reveal its depths." It's similar with stories. A piece whose strength is the acculumation of small domestic details is going to struggle. There's no point in dropping little depth charges that will be detonated by a little phrase near the end, because by then the overworked editor (or intern) will be onto the next submission.

So I'm beginning to accept that some pieces may have to first appear in a book.

Authors of quiet pieces can wait until they have a book-sized collection. But such a book isn't likely to be a new author's way to burst onto the scene. An alternative is to compromise by putting a teaser in the first paragraph - hinting at trauma to come rather than beginning with a dead body or madness.

I think magazines are aware of the problems caused by too many submissions. Already they're restricting the number of submissions they get. Submission windows are getting shorter (a fortnight a year sometimes) and submission fees are more common. Niche publications (specialising e.g. in "Seaside Gothic") may be an option too.