Anyone know poetry?

I received an e-mail from an old friend last week. He’s hoping to publish some of his poetry, and wondering how to begin. Well, let’s be honest here. I know approximately nothing about publishing poetry. Here’s what I told him. Does anyone have other ideas?

It’s certainly a hard market to break into, but it’s not impossible. Traditionally, the best method is to submit to journals. Then, once you have some publication credits, you gather up your work and start submitting it as a book.

Two of the best known journals in our area are the Malahat Review and Prism International. I’m sure there are many more, though. You should probably invest in a copy of the Canadian Writer’s Market. It includes listings and submission guidelines for each magazine and publisher.

As you say, my genre is quite different, but one of the things I find most helpful is a critique group of other writers. These can be tricky to find. One of the best ways is to sign up for a course or workshop, and hit on some of the other participants… find out if anyone’s in a writing group, or interested in starting one. It can be nerve-wracking for the first few meetings, having other people talk over your writing in front of you, but groups are usually highly supportive. It’s nice not to work in a vacuum!

An alternative to in-person writing groups is a good on-line one. I took a really helpful workshop one season through the Vancouver-based WritersWebWorkshop and I think I’ve seen poetry classes on their list sometimes.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. More advice welcome!