Category Archives: Resources

Calls for Submission: formal verse

Of the various publication opportunities specifically for formal/traditional poets, three are taking submissions until July 15, and four other formal-friendly publications have submission deadlines of July 31. There is no submission fee for any of them. Here they are – the links are to the submission requirements:

Able Muse (magazine) Deadline, July 15.
Submit one to five metrical poems (or one long poem), rhymed or unrhymed. (A poem of more than 40 lines is considered a “long” poem.)
All types of formal poetry are welcome, from traditional to boundary-pushing. We want well-crafted poems that use meter skillfully and imaginatively (with rhyme or not), in a contemporary idiom that reads as naturally as free verse.

Able Muse Press (book-length manuscript) Deadline, July 15.
At least 50 pages of poems – same preferences as for the magazine.
There’s NO reading fee.
“We respond within 9 months or so.”

Helen Schaible International Sonnet Contest Deadline, July 15.
Categories:
1 Traditional Sonnet – Shakespearean or Petrarchan
2 Modern Sonnet
Open to All. Free. Enter only one poem in either Category #1 or #2, or one poem in each.
Prizes for both categories: First Prize: $50. Second Prize: $30. Third Prize: $20.

Formal-friendly magazines, themed and with July 31 cut-offs:

Snakeskin (short poem issue, nothing over 10 lines). At the link, read the tabs on the left side for submission details. Submit earlier than the very end of July, as publication is scheduled for August 1st. Editor: George Simmers.

Allegro (theme: Freedom) Four poems max. Editor: Sally Long.

Amsterdam Quarterly (theme: City and/or Country) Two poems max. Editor: Bryan R. Monte.

Rat’s Ass Review (unthemed – the editor publishes whatever he damn well feels like publishing, as you might have guessed.) Five poems max. Editor: Roderick Bates.

In addition:

Rhizome Press (not to be confused with Rhizome Books) publishes anthologies of formal verse. Editor Beth Houston is taking submissions of up to 10 sonnets for Extreme Sonnets III, and up to 10 “extreme formal poems of at least twelve lines” for Extreme Formal Poems II. The submission deadlines are not given on the website, but will presumably follow on the publication of Extreme Sonnets II which is currently in the works.

UPDATE from Beth Houston, 11 July 2022: “At long last Extreme Sonnets II is published and available on Amazon! Will there be an Extreme Sonnets III? Likely, but not for awhile. In the meantime I’ll be putting together an anthology of love sonnets—extreme sonnets, of course. I’ll post submission details on the Rhizome Press website soon. All sonnets included in Extreme Sonnets, Extreme Sonnets II, and Extreme Formal Poems will automatically be considered. Stay tuned for more details.”

Short poem: ‘First Contact’

And when we leave this planet, even leave
corporeal necessity behind,
launch in new realms of space, new states of matter,
encapsuled and encoded, searching blind,
who will we find, as we have always found,
those others there before us, unconfined?
How will we meet them, how will we relate,
them settled formlessly, we coming late?

*****

Perhaps I owe an explanation to non-readers of science fiction. The premise of the poem is that we humans will continue to tinker with not just our bodies but our DNA, as we have always experimented with everything. We will produce ever more bizarre manifestations as posthumans, especially useful in off-planet environments (I recommend the short stories of John Varley), ultimately finding ways to exist with intelligence and control without being tied to physical bodies. (Try Vernor Vinge.) But as always, wherever and however we voyage in exploration, we will always find someone (some thing) is there before us. And then there will be all the usual situations that occur with first contact… confusion, lack of communication, miscommunication, trust and distrust, treachery, violence, accommodation, mutual benefit, all the things that social species engage in.

Appropriately this short poem was first published in Bewildering Stories (thanks, Don Webb!), an excellent weekly magazine of speculative stories both short and serialized, and speculative poetry and art. This eight-line poem is structurally pretty basic: it’s in iambic pentameter with the second, fourth and sixth lines rhyming and with a final couplet.

Jupiter – PJ16-13” by Kevin M. Gill is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Resources: Salt Publishing returns!

Begun in 1999 as a wide-ranging British literary publisher, Salt ran into difficulties with a declining market for poetry. In 2013 they posted in their blog that “after thirteen years and over 400 poetry collections, many by debut authors,” they were going to stop publishing poetry by individual poets and instead limit themselves to anthologies. For those who want to see how depressingly small the poetry market could be, here is a Guardian article on it and Salt from 2013.

By 2018 it looked as though Salt might be dissolving entirely, despite the wide praise and support they had from the literary community; and then came Covid and the halt to library and bookstore gatherings. Life got miserable for everyone (except, of course, Boris Johnson).

Happily, Salt hung on, focusing on fiction, and has now strengthened enough to once again be accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts. They may be very much a contemporary publisher, but can’t be completely averse to formal verse if their author list includes Christina Rossetti and Emily Brontë. From their Submissions page:

We are happy to consider full-length poetry collections by Welsh, Scottish, Irish or English poets of circa 64 pages. It will help if poets live in the British Isles to participate in publicity and promotion.
Please send your complete collection along with your magazine publication history and a biographical note.

Their blog even has a useful Guide to Poetry Submissions. Salt, distributed by Penguin Random House and with e-book distribution by Faber Factory, is a top-class independent publisher in the UK. It’s good to see them looking fully active again.

Resources: Light poetry magazine

Light‘ has just published its winter/spring 2022 issue… perhaps a little late, but it still has snow on the cover. Originally founded in 1992 by John Mella as the print magazine Light Quarterly with the mission to “restore humor, clarity, and pleasure to the reading of poems”, it is now biannual. It moved online in 2013, and all issues since then can be read for free on its website, along with excerpts from print issues dating back to 1999. Under current editor Melissa Balmain and her staff of fellow volunteers, it remains the oldest and best-known journal of light verse in the U.S.

I used to think of magazines as purely ephemeral, things to be skimmed and discarded unless a page or photo was worth retaining by tearing out physically or saving online. Light, however, has made me pay attention to how many resources are made available through a well-managed publication. In this case you get the following:
1. The magazine – some 50 poets with one or several pieces each – a great way to be exposed to, and kept up to date on, the range of light formal verse being produced in the English-speaking world today;
2. and more extensive work by, and coverage of, a featured poet – someone with a strong track record, worth learning about their work and career;
3. and (sometimes) an additional light-verse-related feature or essay;
4. and (always) reviews of light-verse books, and/or books that at least have a large helping of comic poetry – and I’m happy to say that the Potcake Chapbooks are again mentioned this issue!
5. and general news: the News page carries info on: 1- events of interest to Light poets (i.e., readings, workshops, and so forth involving light verse and/or Light poets); 2- contests and submission calls friendly to comic poets; 3- awards and honors received by Light contributors and volunteers; 4- books and, occasionally, music by Light poets. **NOTE: Poets and editors are encouraged to email editor Melissa Balmain with info appropriate for the News page: lightpoetrymagazine@gmail.com
6. and the magazine even runs light-verse events! Recordings of its “Light Verse in Dark Times” Zoom series are on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-tR4v4H23BUg5ZDUJlU7fA. In pre-Covid days, Light hosted live readings in Washington, DC, and at the AWP conference in San Antonio, TX. Its first live event in two years will be a reading in honor of Light’s 30th anniversary, May 26 (next week!) at the Poetry by the Sea conference in Madison, CT;
7. and the current-events Poems of the Week (POTW), a mailing list you can join (or find on the Light website’s Home Page) for a weekly blast of 10-12 snappy, snippy comments on the absurdities and iniquities of the world.

So, more than just being a skimmable and disposable magazine, Light provides a doorway to an extensive community, with each issue providing the work of dozens of current poets, and opportunities to go deeper into the world of formal light verse either online or in person, and to be engaged with it actively or passively, weekly, twice-yearly, or as you feel like.

Of course Light also provides an opportunity for a poet to submit their own work: just read an issue or two, and go to https://lightpoetrymagazine.submittable.com/submit to get the details on how (and what) to submit to either the magazine or the POTW.

And for those who think this is the most worthy (free) enterprise they have run across in a long while, their donation page is here: https://lightpoetrymagazine.com/donate/)

Epigram: ‘Bit with Bite’

I think I’ve blinked
At what you write:
Edgy, succinct–
A bit with bite.

This is in the spirit of a homage to The Asses of Parnassus, in which the poem found a home. Editor Brooke Clark has created a tumblr account that for the past few years has been posting “Short, witty, formal poems” on an occasional (i.e. erratic) basis, much in the spirit of Latin and Greek epigrams (and often translations of them, or modern retellings).

This poem itself is not particularly noteworthy – but I enjoyed rhyming ‘blinked’ with ‘succinct’, as well as the ‘think/blink’ and ‘bit/bite’ pairings. Wordplay is at the heart of poetry, from Anglo-Saxon alliteration to modern rap, from nursery rhymes to Shakespearean sonnets. Wordplay is memorable, and sharpens the pain of an epigrammatic jab. Use it, if you want your barbs to be effective.

Review: ‘A Child’s Introduction to Poetry’ by Michael Driscoll

This book, “A Child’s Introduction to Poetry” by Michael Driscoll, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton, is the single best introduction to poetry that I have ever seen. It is part of a series of books aimed at 8 to 10-year-olds, and is divided into two parts: ‘The Rhymes and Their Reasons’, with two to four large pages on topics as diverse as Nonsense Rhymes, The Villanelle, Free Verse and Poems Peculiar; and ‘Poetry’s Greats’ with a couple of pages each on 21 poets such as Homer, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Belloc, Auden, Paz and Angelou. The book is richly illustrated on every page, and is packed with bits of biography, commentary, prosody, explanation and definition. Purely as a book, it is superb.

But wait! There’s more! The original edition came with a CD of all the poems, and the Revised and Updated edition comes with downloadable audio and a poster. These audio aspects are not as brilliant as the book, for two reasons: first, the poems are read “professionally” which unfortunately means without the joy, excitement, teasing, energy or naturalness that I listened for. They are clear, flat and boring, with unnecessarily exaggerated pauses between lines. I listened to the first three poems, and quit. Secondly, the CD version (which is what I have) may have been obsoleted, but the major item of comment in the Amazon reviews is that there are no explanations for downloading the audio, and that it was difficult for reviewers to figure out how to do it.

Ignore the audio, then. If you already have an interest in poetry you will probably do a better job than the unfortunate “professionals” in reading aloud from the book, and your child will have a richer experience anyway from your personal involvement and introduction. The book will soon enough be one for the child to dip into and skip back and forth in, moving from biographies to poems to illustrations to factoids as the mood takes them.

In terms of the variety of poetry–forms, moods, eras, nationalities–I have never seen anything so rich and satisfying for a good young reader as this Introduction. I wish all English-speaking children everywhere could have a copy.

Resources: Formal-friendly magazines for unknown poets

Some of the best-known and longest-established poetry magazines have either changed (often under a new editor) from being receptive to being hostile towards formal verse; others are receptive, but only to already well known poets. So it can be difficult for an unknown formalist to break into publication. For what it’s worth, here is a list of places where I have been able to publish my own uneven and very varied pieces, with some comments about what is appropriate for where.

Alabama Literary Review – US, lyrical, positive; only takes snailmail submissions (unless you have a genuine need for email)
Allegro – UK, contemporary, looking for more formal submissions than they receive
Amsterdam Quarterly – Netherlands, English-language, must address the issue’s theme
Asses of Parnassus – Canada, short, witty, formal poems, snarky is fine, hosted on Tumblr.
Better Than Starbucks – US/Canada, large magazine with many departments including formal; children’s; experimental; etc.
Bewildering Stories – Canada/UK/US, speculative and science fiction pieces
Bosphorus Review of Books – Turkey, English language
Brazen Head – UK, ideas-rich
Chained Muse – US, prefers classical themes
Libretto – Nigeria, prefers African/Afro-American/Afro-European/post-colonial pieces
Light – US, large biannual issue, also the home of weekly topical light verse
Lighten Up Online (LUPO) – UK, light formal verse, quarterly
Lyric – US, “Founded in 1921, The Lyric is the oldest magazine in North America in continuous publication devoted to traditional poetry.” Lyrical, positive… flowers and countryside.
Metverse Muse – India, publishes simple traditional verse. No website. The email for editor Dr. Tulsi is metverse_muse@yahoo.com
Obsessed With Pipework – UK, “strangeness and charm… prefers dreams to deathbeds”
Orchards Poetry Journal – US, more rural than urban
Penwood Review – US, religious streak
Poetry Porch – US, lyrical
Pulsebeat Poetry Journal – US, new; more urban than rural
Rat’s Ass Review – US, irreligious streak; whatever appeals to the editor, including things you can’t get published elsewhere.
Road Not Taken: The Journal of Formal Poetry – US, hard to find online because of its name, but a good small publication for formal and semi-formal verse.
Shot Glass Journal – US, max 16 lines, lots of international poets
Snakeskin – UK, probably the longest-established poetry zine in the world; has no interest in submission bios, only in the poems; likes work that begins light and becomes heavier.
Star*Line – US, Science Fiction poetry
The HyperTexts (THT) – US, an enormous assemblage of verse from all times and places; the editor’s preference for formal and leftist verse doesn’t rule out Walt Whitman or Ronald Reagan! The works are mostly republications, but if you have a body of strong work the editor may be interested in creating a page for you.
Verse-Virtual – US, a monthly publication for a caring community of poets
Visions International – US – I’m not sure what the status is of this magazine these days, or who is editing it…

This list doesn’t include magazines not relevant for me (like Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women), or that moved away from formalism (like Ambit), or that have unfortunately folded (14 by 14, The Rotary Dial, Unsplendid). And there must be a lot more worthy magazines that I simply haven’t run across – I would be very glad of your recommendations about others to list.

And of course, as ever, don’t just fire off a handful of poems at random – read some samples online, determine the magazine’s orientation and moods, check whether the editor wants anything particular, note whether they love or loathe attachments, etc…

Good luck!

Magazines” by theseanster93 is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Experimental Poem: ‘Pointillist’

(Note: this poem is so named because if you look at it closely you may not find as much meaning as if you step back, let it flow past you, and see an outline of a story.)

Awake
Anew
Awhile
Askew;
Afoot
Among
Amass
Along;
Abet
Aback
Ado
Alack;
Alas!

Abroad
Again
Astride
Amain;
Atop
Alight
Aglow
Afright;
Afar
Ahead
Aloft
Abed;
Alone!

Aware
Amused
Affair
Accused;
Away
Aboard
Affray
Abhorred;
Aground
Alive
Abound
Arrive;
Ahoy!

Array
Await
Assay
Abate;
Appraise
Accord
Amaze
Adored;
Apprise
Appoint
Arise
Anoint;
Adieu!

This poem started (if I remember correctly) as four or five of the early words coming into my head with a sense of rhyme and rhythm when I was on the point of falling asleep. I roused myself enough to write the words down, doing what I consider an essential part of the communication I long for with my unconscious, my Muse–acknowledge the Muse by writing whatever is offered to you, whether or not it is complete or makes sense.

The next day I wrote more, keeping to iambic monometer and words of Anglo-Saxon derivation beginning with A. As a hint of a story took shape, I kept writing. After the first two stanzas I moved over into words of Latin derivation and went for more intense rhyme. Long lists of words were involved. After four days I had the whole poem.

As for the story itself… I see a hero setting out, failing, trying again, under threat, escaping by boat, shipwrecked, and finally rewarded. Are they male or female, and of what age? Did they have a love affair? Did they end up at home or in foreign lands? If you look at the poem sideways you may find an answer that suits you. Or (of course) not.

‘Pointillist’ was the second of five poems recently published in the Poetry section of The Brazen Head.

Pointillistically abstracted” by readerwalker is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Sonnet: ‘Exiled Leader’

I’ve few wants on my planet, fewer needs –
I like seas, trees, exploring what I’ve made,
Prospecting for the transgalactic trade,
Composing music while collecting seeds.
I like green islands, but won’t interfere
If eco climate needs a waste of ice
Or rock-filled deserts simply are the price
Of balancing the seas and atmosphere.
I’m rarely lonely, happy to create:
Atonal opera, atoning for
Those antisocial acts that led to war,
Jailed on the planet that I populate.
So I plant trees, make insects, have a swim,
Watch, read, compose… my life’s an endless whim.

This sonnet is one of four I wrote after Maryann Corbett commented on the bleakness of my future visions. I suppose this doesn’t really contradict that comment… we’ll have good news and bad news: the good news is, obnoxious leaders will still (occasionally) be deposed, jailed, or exiled to play golf; the bad news is, transgalactic warfare will be pretty awful. But to me, the future’s not bleak if humans keep on developing, changing, growing, exploring, discovering, creating. I think that’s the most likely scenario, that we move out into the galaxy as transhumans and then as post-humans. Though when I say “we” I don’t mean to suggest that includes me! Neither moon nor Mars excite me. I like woods and gardens by the sea.

This poem was published in Star*Line, the official print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (thanks, Jean-Paul Garnier). Its poetry includes the full range of styles from formal to free. And the SFPA has another, online, journal called Eye To The Telescope. For reasons unknown my poems haven’t found lodging in ETTT yet.

“The Little Prince” by manfred majer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

New magazine’s Call For Submissions – Pulsebeat Poetry Journal

Poet (and engineer) David Stephenson contacted me recently with the message “I am starting a new journal, Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, for poems with a strong musical element, especially poems in meter and rhyme. I don’t think there are enough venues for rhyming poetry.” He is putting out a general Call for Submissions on his web page https://pulsebeatpoetry.com/guidelines/

“Poems full of music, using meter and rhyme or other means, previously unpublished… Theme should be the human condition… Submissions by December 31, 2021, for the first issue to be posted in January, 2022.” More submission details are at that link above.

David Stephenson has published in The Formalist, The Lyric, etc. His ‘Rhythm and Blues‘ won the Richard Wilbur Award in 2007, which puts him in excellent company. On the Masthead page of his web site you can find links to more recent poems of his, published in Autumn Sky Poetry and Avatar Review.

I look forward to reading the Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, and wish David Stephenson good luck with the venture.