How intimidating are the submissions portals, when I’m reading through rules and provisos on the relevant website beforehand. I feel these sharklike editors chopping down on each trembling entry, yelling ‘Nooooo! This one has used the wrong emm-dash! And OMG, is that someone who cannot operate the essential four-dimensional page-alignment program-space? Fie on them and their mimsy 18th century useless-poety weakness!’ Ohhh, I think, now here’s another outlet who won’t take my stuff; and I miss the deadline date as usual. So what about it, editor? Are you making your entry points good-to-go, or are you throwing down the hurdles for no particular reason? Do us a favour, editor, and practise what you preach, you and your level playing fields. A couple of years ago I asked a small press about why their website was so visually busy that I couldn’t find the submissions portal they had recently opened. They replied it was deliberate; if I could not navigate the site, I was probably not their kind of writer. Their site design, apparently, was done messy like that to discourage people. It lost them a sale too, since I was looking to buy one of their pamphlets at the same time. Anyway, here I am looking at yet another place of that ilk, scrolling through the rules…..
Meanwhile a well-known outlet could see in excess of 2,000 poems coming in, which is a heavy load for a volunteer. One of the things which mag editors don’t want you to know is that their public-facing shop window can be made to look very high level indeed, but ultimately it’s still one or two unpaid people, a kitchen table, and maybe a friendly local printer who can offer a discount. It’s worth remembering that, when you feel so intimidated by the ultra-cool graphics and lists of requirements and provisos. There are always places where you can send stuff, thanks to the number of helpful poets who list opportunities on Twitter and elsewhere: but I feel that many of the outlets have very specific targets or wish-lists which are never made clear.
…..eventually I sent a submission off. Ironically, the website form wouldn’t accept my doc. even though it was in the format asked for; and the numpty that is me was being hindered by the numpty that was them. Later, in going over a previous submission for a press whose attitude I rather like, I discovered an inadvertent blank page inserted between pp. 1 and 2 of my work. I was sure I had sent in a page-perfect version. How on earth did that get there? If I had done this as hardcopy, I would see that a blank page had gone in. There is something to be said for old-tyme paper submissions, and if I was running a project in future, I would accept paper versions from anyone who cannot get on with the tech. I’m sure I am not the only person who turns into a complete wreck when they are trying to get a submission out. And this is why poet associates are so valuable, dear reader! When you are having a crisis of confidence and hiding under the carpet seems like a sensible decision, your associates are the ones who keep you sane and in the game.
It didn’t matter anyway because all the stuff I was sending out [as described above] was rejected. Thank goodness for other outlets where I was able to make a contribution, and simple email access where all you have to do is press ‘send’. One of last years’ projects delivered a fine paperback to my door: The Meeting, Reading & Writing through John Clare (ed. Simon Kovesi, John Clare Society, 2020) Various poets including Clare Shaw and John Gallas, Sarah Corbett and Karen McCarthy Woolf, give reactions to aspects of Clare’s life and work, with generous selections from their workshop attendees during 2019. There is a website dedicated to the project at http://www.brookes.ac.uk/the-meeting.