Poetry essay: Some tips on getting poems published

M. Sakran has had fifty three poems published, in addition to the collection of poetry First Try. You can find a list of the poems, along with links to some of them, at www.msakran.com/publications.html. That page shows a list of many of the items M. Sakran has had published.

If you are looking to have your poems published, here are some tips that might help you.

Keep an open mind about publications

There are a number of publications that publish poetry.  Some publications, like literary magazines, might publish predominately poetry, other publications, like some special interest magazines, might publish poetry only occasionally.

When looking for publishers for your poetry, keep your options broad.  Look at literary magazines, special interest magazines, blogs, calls for poetry from websites and so forth.  Keep an open mind about the types of poetry you write (for example, don’t just write free verse, but consider haiku as well) and where it can be published.


Unfortunately, a reality of sending poetry submissions is that many of them will be declined.  You might send out one hundred poems, and only get five published.  Don’t let this be a discouragement.  It’s just part of how things are.

When sending a number of poems out, keep a few ideas in mind.


Keep good records.  Know what you sent, to who and when.  This can help if you need to follow up, if someone accepts your poem, if there is some type of deadline and so forth.  It can be very useful if you keep everything organized.


If you are going to be sending out a number of poems, don’t spend too much time on any one.  Make sure you write quality poems, but don’t labor over any one.  Since part of the idea is quantity, you don’t want to slow the process down.

Don’t take rejection personally

When you send out many poems, many will be declined.  Keep records of the decline, but don’t take it personally or let it hurt your feelings.  Just move on from it and write something else.

Don’t simultaneously submit

Sending the same poems to many places can cause difficulties.  How do you keep everything straight?  How do you know who is still considering a poem, who rejected some, and what do you do if one is accepted?  It can be very hard to keep track of things if you send the same poems to different places.  If you follow the tip of not spending too much time on any one poem, you would be better off writing more poems than reusing poems.


One way to write many poems more easily, is to stick to the same subject.  Pick a topic that is broad but unified.  Some examples might be homelessness, poverty, technology in society, or working in an office.  Choose something that has a lot of subtopics to write about, but still has an overall theme.

Sticking to the same subject can make writing a large number of poems easier because you don’t have to think about something new to write about each time.  You only have to think about different focuses or perspectives.

Cover letters

When you submit poems for consideration, include a cover letter.  Say what you are sending, say something about yourself and maybe mention some past publications.  Don’t explain the poems you are sending in or have something that’s more than a page.

When you first start sending cover letters, you might write them individually.  If you do this enough though, you will often find that you write the same things, but in different ways.  A good idea might be to take a few letters you have written, see what they have in common, and develop a standard cover letter.  Using a standard cover letter, that you modify to a degree depending on what you are sending and to whom, can make the process of sending a number poems easier.  It can also be useful in refining what you want to say.


If you are sending a number of poems out, it can be get expensive if you pay to submit, like you would for a contest.  There are number of publications that will consider poems for free (or at least have a free option or time period).  At the start, stick with those.

Electronic submissions

Similarly, there are many publications that accept electronic submissions.  Sending submissions via regular mail can start to get expensive if you send many poems.


When you submit poems to publications, they will often have poetry guidelines.  They might have restrictions on the number of poems, where you send the poems, when you can send the poems and what information you include in your cover letters.  Follow the guidelines exactly.  They usually are not that cumbersome and not following them might hurt your chances at publication.

Learn about the publications

While it isn’t necessary for you to read every publication you send poems to, you should at least have a basic understanding of what they are about.  In addition to reading their guidelines, you should read their about section, a few items they have published and take a general look at their website or publication.  You want to make sure that the publication is a fit for you and that you have some idea about the kinds of poems they publish.

Stick with what works

When you find something that works for you in getting poems published, stick with it at least for a time.  Maybe you find that your poems about heart disease are getting published.  Maybe you find that your poems to environmental literary magazines are doing better than others.  When you find a type of poetry, a subject matter or a type of publication that is publishing your work, stick with it for at least a time.  While you want to keep your options open and consider new things, if you want to be published, this might be a way increase your chances.

Repeat publications

Similarly to sticking with what works in regards to type of poetry and so forth, if you find a publication that likes your poetry and has published more than one or two poems, you might consider keeping them in mind for the future.  Sometimes it can be easier to get published again with a publication, than it can be to get published with a publication for the first time.  Make sure you follow guidelines about how often you submit, but consider submitting to these publications over time.


The list of tips above isn’t exhaustive.  It’s just some ideas to help you in getting poems published.  While a lot can determine if the poems you write get published or not, following the tips above should help you in the process.

Experimental Poetry Form: four by four

This experimental poetry form is called four by four.  It is simple and consists of one stanza, with four lines, each with four words.  It looks as follows, with an * representing a word:


Here is an example poem:

The endive was bitter,
and the lemon sour,
when romaine was chosen,
with an orange dressing.

Poem with an explanation: the day monster

Within the night of the day dream,
where things are lie but do not seem,
the monster’s teeth both shine and gleam,
and in the dark the mind does scream.

The flames do roar at strike of match,
and chains do bind and locks do latch,
the monster’s close and soon will catch,
its claws do reach to grab and snatch.

And in the world there seems a fight,
within the dream of day not night,
the struggle moves both left and right,
and all is fought without the sight.

And then the time when dams do break,
does come and with the quickness make,
a soul to fall and form to shake,
and in the world a soul to wake.

The eyes do gleam but with a start,
and in the form there is a heart,
that seems pierced through like with a dart,
as from the dream the soul does part.

The lights do shine and fogs do clear,
the monster’s roar is far not near,
and though the heart does feel the fear,
the sound of it it does not hear.

And in the world the mind does know,
that flames that roar do seem to sow,
the dreams of day all filled with woe,
where monster teeth both shine and glow.


This poem is about a dream a person has during the day when they are ill and have a fever.  When a person is ill and has a fever, sometimes they can have dreams that feel very bad but are incoherent.  When they awake, they can have a realization of what was happening.

In the poem, the person is sleeping during the day.  This is because they are ill.  They are also having a bad dream.  This is described in the first line of the first stanza.

The first line says, “Within the night of the day dream”.  The person is asleep, and they are dreaming.  It is day time, but they are not having a daydream.  It is metaphorically night because the person is having a bad dream.

The person feels that what they are dreaming is real.  This is shown in the second line which says, “where things are lie but do not seem”.

The third line describes the badness of the dream as a monster with teeth that “shine and gleam”.

The fourth line shows the person’s fear (and in the dark the mind does scream).

The second stanza starts off by describing the fever the person has.  Because of the dream and their illness the person feels like they can’t move (and chains do bind and locks do latch).  The next two lines describe the feeling of the bad dream.

The third stanza moves from the dream world to reality.  As the person sleeps, they move and seem to struggle.  This is because of their illness and their bad dream.  The physical struggle of the person is described in this stanza.

In the fourth stanza, the person’s fever breaks and they start to sweat.  This is described in the first line, “And then the time when dams do break”.  This causes the person to wake up and in that process they feel like they are falling and shaking (a soul to fall and form to shake).  At the end of the sensation, the person wakes up (and in the world a soul to wake).

As the person wakes up they do so with a start (The eyes do gleam but with a start).  Their heart is beating fast (and in the form there is a heart, that seems pierced through like with a dart).  In the process the person leaves the dream world they were in (as from the dream the soul does part).

The person becomes more aware of reality in the next stanza (The lights do shine and fogs do clear).  They start to feel removed from the bad dream (the monster’s roar is far not near).  They still feel afraid (and though the heart does feel the fear), though they are more removed from its source (the sound of it it does not hear).

In the last stanza, the person realizes what happened (And in the world the mind does know).  They understand that the fever caused the bad dream.

In terms of form, each stanza follows the same format.  All stanzas are four lines written in iambic tetrameter.  All lines in a stanza rhyme.  Incorrect grammar was used in some places for sound and to fit the form.

A photograph to inspire poetry: squirrel in a broken branch

squirrel in a broken branch

Above is a photograph of a squirrel in a broken branch.  It can inspire poetry.  Here is an example:

the neighborhood looks nice,
and the place is cozy,
the views are nice,
and there is hardwood throughout
with a history of storm damage,
those neighbors who stay up all night wondering Who-Who will move in,
and that whole lack of a front door thing,
it might not be the best place

Bilingual Poem: it’s cold

It’s cold
the fires inside grow low
while the stoker fights the war
beyond the villagers rush
the fires grow high with light
and covered the man does sleep
it’s cold


Hace frío
los fuegos dentro de se ponen bajo
mientras el fogonero pelea el guerra
más allá los pueblerinos se apresuran
los fuegos se ponon alto con luz
y cubrió el hombre está duerme
hace frío

Poetry topic idea: radio

Today’s poetry topic idea is radio.  A poet can incorporate the idea into poetry in a number of ways.  Below are some ideas.  A poet could:

  • Use radio in an acrostic poem. The word is short, has no repeated letters and has 60% vowels and 40% consonants.  A poet could write a five line acrostic poem with radio as the base.

  • Write about the idea of broadcasting. Radio has a feature such that, under the right circumstances, anyone with a proper device can listen for free.  There is the idea of freely spreading ideas involved.  A poet could apply this idea to poetry.  They could write about the spreading of an idea.  They could also view the publication of their poetry (either by themselves or someone else) as broadcasting their ideas.  This could influence the poetry they write.

  • Think about radio plays from the 1940s and write a poem in a similar style (with names of speakers, sound effects, actions spoken, etc.) They could write in noir, western, or mystery genres.

  • Write about music on the radio.

  • Write about talk radio.

  • Write about the use of radio in emergencies.

  • Write about radio as a means of communication.


Here is an example poem:

The Detective

“Where were you,
last Tuesday,
the fourteenth,
at 11:30,
at night?”

the question.

Artwork to inspire poetry: mosquito


Above is an artwork of a mosquito.  Below are some poetry ideas from it.  A poet could write about:

  • Mosquitos. A poet could focus on different aspects.  They might write about their place in nature, the idea of them being pests, ideas about disease or other things.  A poet could focus on seasons and place.  They could also use the ideas symbolically for other things.

  • Blood. A poet could write about different things related to blood.  They could write about donating blood, blood tests, bleeding, the idea of being related and other things.

  • Vulnerability. A poet could think about how vulnerable mosquitos are and apply the idea metaphorically to different situations.

Here is an example poem:

A hat,
long sleeve shirt,
long socks,
closed shoes,

middle of summer,
armor for gardening.

Artwork to inspire poetry: a broken hazelnut without its shell

a broken hazelnut without its shell

Above is an artwork of a broken hazelnut without its shell.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • The idea of something being broken. The poet could look at the idea of broken as being negative or positive depending on the situation.

  • The idea of pieces. A poet could focus on pieces of something, either physical or pieces of an idea.

  • The idea of putting something back together. The poet could focus on something physical or look at the idea symbolically.

Here is an example poem:

The weight did fall,
the foot did break,
held together,
in the plaster.
Six weeks pass,
steps are climbed,
the day does come,
when there is breath.
Seeing the familiar,
looking so different.
Doing something basic,
with such effort.
Walking without thought,
and thinking of it.