Tag Archives: contemporary poets

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.

Review: ‘Extreme Formal Poems – Contemporary Poets’, ed. Beth Houston

Beth Houston has compiled an excellent anthology of formal verse (i.e. poems that use traditional structures of exact rhyme and tightly controlled meter; typically in familiar forms like the sonnet, villanelle, ballade, etc, but sometimes in a nonce form, a form specially created by the poet for that particular poem, and then rigorously maintained for all its stanzas). What is unusual in this day and age is these are all contemporary poets, for the most part American, though with half-a-dozen who at least started out in the UK. (In the interests of disclosure: two of my poems are in this book, and I am one of the non-Americans.)

The poems range in a variety of moods through a whole host of modern topics. With examples from first stanzas only, we have a flippant take on nature:

The female fly is nearly chaste.
She hasn’t any time to waste;
Her life’s a span of weeks, not months,
And so she copulates just once.

– Max Gutmann, The Fly

a rueful look at the military:

You’ve made us proud–the prosperous and free.
It doesn’t matter that a GED
was all the education you could get,
or that you signed up on a drunken bet.

– Barbara Loots, Thank You For Your Service

lighthearted memories:

In sloppy FM waves nostalgia rolls:
I wanna hold! You are the sunshine of!
Each oldie on the golden dial extols
Your soul, your body’s curves, your rockin’ love.

– Chris O’Carroll, Classic Hits

Villon-reflecting reflections on time and mortality:

Where are the flushed and frantic teens,
The hormones’ fevered ebbs and flows?

(Fire buckets, water, verbal screens.)
The girls–good grief!–that parents chose
And others–how the mind’s eye glows!
Who floated inches off the floor?

(Flout censor’s ruling–fish-net hose.)
With dodo, great auk, dinosaur.
– Jerome Betts, Ballade of Inevitable Extinction

pastoral descriptions of nature:

On moorland, on meadow, from dark sky I’m falling,
through peat, into pavement, I’m seeping, I’m sinking.
Above me the crows and the curlews are calling,
and of me the hares and the horses are drinking.

– Tim Taylor, Water of Holme

witty observations flavored with wordplay and interior rhymes:

I’m far from young enough to know it all.
With age my inner sage has paled and died.
My dimmer, dumber cerebellum’s fall
Leaves ever-clever youth aloof and snide.

– Susan Jarvis Bryant, I’m Far From Young Enough

But what you don’t get from the openings to the poems is that most of them pack a punch at the end. There will be a twist to the story, or a summation that recasts everything in a different light, or a straight-out contradiction of what the reader was being led to expect. The poems may be extremely formal. They are also extremely good.

The only regret I have is that some of the very best contemporary formal poets are missing: both the publicity-prominent (e.g. A.E. Stallings, Amit Majmudar, Gerry Cambridge, Wendy Cope) and the more reclusive (Pino Coluccio, Rose Kelleher, Marcus Bales). But happily there are still 37 excellent and prize-winning poets in Beth Houston’s well-selected anthology. So the good news is that a great many superb formalists are writing today, and–believe it or not–this looks like a Golden Age for formal verse. And ‘Extreme Formal Poems‘ is a very good manifestation of it.