*Notes from a poet to any who are trying to get published
Trying to get published by a reputable, paying book publisher can seem a bit like trying to give a cat a suppository. It is not hugely rewarding and you are likely to end up getting hurt. In the case of the cat it may help to wear gloves; with writing you need to develop a thick skin - and a more intelligent way of writing. As a poet, just as with fiction writers, you need to do some research. Fiction writers may read up on the part of the world where a story is set. Poets mostly need to read a lot of good poetry and learn from it. It sounds simple in theory, in practise it means reading a lot of both classic and modern poetry, also perhaps narrowing it down to the poets who write about what you enjoy writing poetry about. For example, if you want to write narrative poetry on subjects of horror and suspense, try reading Edgar Allen Poe and William Blake. If you want to write about the sensual nature of the world, or the foibles of people, read Dylan Thomas and D.H. Lawrence. If you want to learn how to write poetry on sad or poignant subjects, without being mawkish or self-indulgent, read the work of Sylvia Plath.
It is also well worth joining a local poetry workshop. The tutor or group leader may be able to "prescribe" books or the work of poets whose work is in some kind of accord with your own developing style. If you have no idea what that style is yet, read a bit of everything. It really is a very healthy thing to nurture an interest in the work of other poets. They may amuse, amaze and inspire you. Do not be daunted by the brilliance of their wit. Rather, try to allow their cleverness to illuminate parts of your mind that have been hitherto unused, then sit down and see what you can create with your new inspiration. Look for the musicality of the English language. Be a sensualist - find ways to impart your message in a way that will make the reader hear through your ears and see through your eyes, conjour up textures and aromas. Evoke the world as you see it, from your senses, through your pen, onto the page.
It can help a lot if you also have an intelligent system of market research. Do you write love poetry or poems on nature? Do you write in classical rhyme and meter or in free verse? There are some book publishers, such as the Oxford University Press, which will only publish the works of very well-established, classic poets. There are other big publishers, however, such as Harper Collins, which are slightly more open to new writers. Harper Collins insist that submissions are made through an agent. Unfortunately, so do a lot of other big publishers. It will not be any easier to find a good literary agent than it is to find a good publisher. The only way of speeding the process up slightly is to submit work by email, rather than snail mail. If you do this, use plain text pasted into an email, not word-processed attachments. Different agents will have different word processor programs and most will not want to open file attachments in emails.
Think very hard about the work you have chosen to submit. Choose only the poems you are very happy with. Read the work aloud before choosing it, do not assume that others will like it just because you (and your friends) do. If you know what kind of work has already been published by a particular editor, then only consider examples of your own work that seem to fit that criteria. This applies for ezine editors as well as print journal and book editors. Take an interest in prevously-published poets at the websites, read and be inspired by their work.
Success in writing requires careful planning and a willingness to keep learning. Complacency is the death of creativity. Even successful poets have told me that it never gets any easier to be successful. So sit down at the keyboard, get to work - write, re-draft and re-draft again.
Finally, once you are published, remember Author's Den, and how they can help you to tell the world about your published work! Then you can start the long process of marketing yourself as a poet (But that's another story).
And good luck!