Kelly Davio from the Tahoma Literary Review -had some great insights about what she sees coming across the transom during open submission periods or during contests.
I have to admit that because our poetry Collection – And the Beats Go On, asked for Beat poems specifically, I did not come across these categories. But if you are a new writer, and so many of us are, these are great categories to write about, then put away and not send out.
Here’s what Davio says is overrepresented in her “in” box:
- My child said something amazing. Kids do say the darndest things, but it’s often more charming to the parent or to other family members than it is to the stranger who doesn’t already know and love your little one.
- Someone I love got very sick. This one is tricky; there’s possibly no more compelling, urgent topic to write about than the matter of life and death, and it’s a topic that touches us all. I’ve printed many poems on this topic over the years, but no magazine can devote all its pages to the darkness; we need the light, too.
- My garden is beautiful and meaningful. I get it. I have my organic garden, too. When you spend a lot of time and take a good deal of pride in coaxing radishes out of the dust, those little root vegetables start to look pretty meaningful. Unless you have something more to say than that the seasons change and we grow older, you may want to rethink submitting that poem.
- I visited exotic locations and ate amazing food. Sometimes, travel poems feel a little like looking at someone else’s vacation photos: it’s just not as thrilling an experience when lived vicariously.
- I walked on the beach or in the woods and had deep thoughts and/or I sat in the coffee shop and observed human behavior. Is there a poet who hasn’t written these poems? I know I have a few like this in the drawer. Just as with the garden poem, unless there’s something new and fresh to be said here, the drawer might be an okay place for these poems to rest.
- My childhood was awesome. That’s great! But maybe not something that gives a gift to the reader. Personal nostalgia poetry (I receive a good many submissions of 60s childhood stories) doesn’t always speak to the generalist audience; editors want to publish work with which people of all ages and backgrounds can resonate. Unless the poem has something unique to give to every reader, regardless of whether they grew up at the same time as you did, it may be okay to leave that one out of the submission packet.
So even though you had an awesome children spent walking along exotic beaches, keep those poems to yourself, and find some strong theme that involves ancient monsters during an apocalypse.