Let’s be honest – you send off a bunch of poetry submissions, each submission consisting of five or six poems, and in that bunch three or four poems are common to each submission. So you post them or paste and email them to a magazine or journal which accepts simultaneous submissions on condition you contact them immediately if the piece is accepted elsewhere. Hell, you even send some simultaneous submissions to journals that request otherwise because you have already resigned yourself to the fact that you are, some weeks or months down the line, going to receive an email with the same euphemistic tone you have heard too many times before apologizing that your work “wasn’t right for us at this time”. On the other hand, you may get lucky, and the email you receive is one of triumph – a congratulatory shake-of-the-hand email announcing that you are the chosen one. What follows will be a PDF of your work which you are to check meticulously and then return with a bio of fifty words or less. A few months later, a glossy magazine will arrive by post, be ripped from its envelope, the subscription coupons and requests discarded, the contents page scanned, your poem located and the page opened. And there she is. Job done.
But will the rest of the journal and magazine actually be read? Of course it will! What are you insinuating you stain of a man? Perhaps it will, and then be passed from your hands to the next over a beer in a bar with page markers recalling quickly the poems or stories you liked the most. Out of pride, the aforementioned journal may rest in peace on a shelf dedicated to your publication history – a row that grows longer at an agonizing pace.
September has come and submission season is upon us again. Targets have been set and new poems and re-worked poems and stories are all at the ready. In a recent incarnation of this domain, I had a list of literary journals as a separate link, with one or two lines describing each, what they look for, and whether they accepted email or postal submissions. The longer I spend here in the US, the more I realize how many journals there are out there, with new ones appearing on Facebook every week looking for you to hit the ‘Like’ button and send on the submission. I have longed question the logic of hitting the ‘Like’ button but thought “what harm?” if it’s a personal page; but for a literary magazine, surely buying an actual copy of the journal would be better support? I would be a hypocrite if I said I subscribed to all the magazines that published me, but if you have had any luck with submissions you would know that this is a tough task. On a recent stroll down to my local newsagents in Hollywood, however, I found the selection of journals had diminished quite significantly since my first visit over three years before. Are they closing operations or are the stores choosing not to stock them because they don’t sell? Consequently, I find myself fearful that the ones I like will vanish completely if I don’t do my bit and chip in. To cut a short story long, and if you are still reading, I suppose I am issuing a call to arms to go out there to your local bookstore, choose a literary journal, buy it, read it and keep it alive. It will knock ten years off you, take three inches off your waistline, and compared to the person you sit next to in the cafe who is staring vacuously at the screen of a smartphone you will look infinitely sexier.