Every poetry journal makes the same request when putting out a call for submissions:
read some of our back issues to get a feel for our style.
Reading back issues is important not only to see if you have something that the journal might like, but it also keeps you connected to what is currently being acknowledged and praised in the literary market. Publishing on Twitter and on your own blog can be personally inspiring and rewarding, but if you want to build up some poetic street-cred among the literary journals (so that you can one day apply for government grants to write a collection), you need to hoard some of your best stuff and then submit it.
If you post something on Twitter or on your blog, it’s considered published by most literary journals. This means that if you write a great poem that you’d like to see published in Fiddlehead or Prairie Fire, you can’t put it online for others first. The journal wants first-publication rights; they want to be the first ones to share your masterpiece with the world. You get the rights back after a certain amount of time (read your contract carefully) and then you can do with the poem what you will.
So where can you read these literary journals?
Your public or university library might have subscriptions to literary journals. VPL (Vancouver Public Library), for example, has an excellent selection of Canadian and international journals to peruse (but you can’t sign them out).
The other option is to subscribe. Yes, this takes money, but I have a handy trick for you if you like the idea of receiving new literature at your door every three months—as I do!
Most of the big name Canadian literary journals have annual contests with impressive cash prizes and grandeur to be won. The odds of winning are a long shot, but when you pay the contest entry fee (usually between $30-40), you receive a year-long subscription.
This is a great deal if you want the subscription anyway and have some solid poems that you’d like to send into battle.
There are two such contests coming up imminently:
Deadline (Postmarked): November 30, 2014
$32 to submit up to 3 poems
Grand Prize: $1250
Submission by snail mail only
For the address and other details (read them carefully!) go to their website: http://www.prairiefire.ca/contests/
Deadline (Postmarked): December 1, 2014
$30 to submit up to 3 poems if you’re Canadian ($36 Int’l)
Grand Prize: $2000
Submission by snail mail only
For the address and other details (read them carefully!) go to their website:
If you don’t have the money to enter both contests, check out their websites or their back issues at the library to see which one best suits you.
I will be posting more writing advice for poets and short fiction writers in the future, so please subscribe and follow me on your preferred social media. (share buttons below too)
Wondering which journals to read? Subscribe to my blog, and I will send you a handy PDF of the annual contests of some of Canada’s most influential poetry journals.