Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Poetry Editor

When I became a Poetry Editor over at Skyline E-Magazine, I got all psyched about it. “I’m a poetry editor. Cool.” Then I started wading through submissions. And I started thinking, “I’m a Poetry Editor. Ugh.” And lately that thought still stands because my co-editor, Tom Sterner-howe, was recently let go. Up until then, it was nice to have someone on the level to help out. Even though his “helping out” came and went. But, still, it was nice. Then the Editor-in-Chief e-mails me to say “it’s just you and me now.” I think, naïve as I am, “Well, I can handle this alone.” (Yeah, right, just like I was able to handle editing and publishing a magazine alone – and that magazine is no longer around!) It has been a big job. Really big. Especially with Ed-in-Chief finishing ALL of the issues early. (As it is now, we’re wrapping up the Christmas issue.)

I just finished sending the Ed-in-Chief over 200 pages of poems I rejected. (I read EVERY ONE. BY MYSELF!) Plus 15 pages of poems I DID accept. Then I get a 63-page poetry book and the message from EIC saying “Help, pick one to nominate for Pushcart.” And I’m looking at that page count, dazedly mumbling, “I. Want. To. Scream.” So I start going through it, reading poems about bikers, horses and flying. One line I kept reading over and over again was “Please God some relief” because I’m sitting there praying, “Yeah, God, I could use some of that relief, too!” (On an interesting sidenote, I ended up choosing the same poem she did!)

Maybe I should let EIC know that sending out a call for another poetry editor would be a grand idea. It would help, at least.

But being a poetry editor has definitely been a learning experience, not so much in realizing how much editors have to put up with in wading through submissions but common mistakes that submitters make. I’ve pretty much seen enough of these mistakes to note them here. If you want to get a poem published anywhere, you would do well to follow these rules:

1. Always submit per instructions. If we ask for 6 poems max, don’t send more than 6. Also, that’s just the MOST you can send; you can send two or three, if you want to. You don’t HAVE to send 6. And if guidelines state you should use an online submission form, follow that rule. Submissions e-mailed to individual editors can get lost or deleted.

2. Send poetry that is the kind we read. We don’t publish lyrics/sheet music, religious poetry or prose poetry. Very rarely do we publish rhymed poetry. And most magazines tend to be neutral, so it’s a good idea to hold off on submitting poetry opposing/supporting the war. Unless it’s asked for.


4. Don’t send a cover letter promising the editor riches, fame, gold or even an island named after them in the event the work is accepted.

5. Always, ALWAYS address the editor with the proper title. If you can’t get their name, don’t address your submission with “To Whom It May Concern.” And I’ve seen so many “Dear Sir” salutations that I’m ready to have an identity crisis.

6. Please, please watch your language. There is no excuse for littering your poetry with nothing but foul language. And it won’t do your chances of getting accepted any favors, either.

7. Don’t be afraid to submit again if you get rejected. Just because your submission didn’t make it this time, it doesn’t mean the rest of them will. If you get rejected, submit again!!


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