Getting poetry published is hard. Maybe not for everyone, but for me, well…
First though, I must tell you to look away now if you are expecting another creative writing prompt (they’re every Wednesday and today is Saturday!). No, this about my publishing experiences, with special reference to the UK and Ireland.
It’s well known that a lot of poetry publishers are one-man bands, struggling to keep going. I don’t know many poets who have made money from their poetry, or small publishers who run at a decent profit. That begs the question, why do they do it? But that’s not where I’m going here, and if I had a money-making poetry-related business idea, I’d have implemented it by now, trust me.
I didn’t begin taking myself seriously as a creative writer until about 10 years ago. I was a reader, not a writer (well, I was a commercial wordsmith, which is different). Then one day I felt the need to express myself in a poetic way. It was as if someone had flicked a switch! I didn’t know what I was doing, but I kept going to workshops and poetry readings, honing my craft, listening to and reading other people’s work, and eventually I began to share my own.
There’s the inner critic there, always, which many other writers also experience. I didn’t know if I could do it, so I entered competitions and sought publication in magazines and journals. I was desperate for third party validation, someone else agreeing what I’d written was worth reading.
The turning point was going to a Masterclass with Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke in Tŷ Newydd in Wales in 2017. No-one laughed me out of the room, and that was such an amazing experience.
That year, I was published in the Irish Times and in March 2018 won a Hennessy Literary Award and had that Dublin pub re-named (temporarily!) in my honour, which was a surreal experience. I told Carol Ann Duffy about that (as you do) and she asked to see some of my poems. She subsequently chose me as one of her Laureate’s Choice poets. My pamphlet ‘Soft Touch’ was then published by Poetry Business imprint Smith/Doorstop in 2019.
Still writing poetry and short stories, in 2020 I entered a pamphlet, ‘Under the Influence’, in the Munster Literature Centre’s Fool for Poetry Competition, and much to my delight, it was commended. (I had another pamphlet, ‘After Dinner Speaking’ commended in the following year’s competition.)
What to do with ‘Under the Influence’? I thought I’d send it out on submission, and my first try was with Hedgehog Poetry Press, a Somerset-based poetry publisher run by Mark Davidson. He accepted the book for publication by return. Very exciting, ‘Under the Influence’ accepted for publication!
I’d chosen Hedgehog because I liked the finished print product (they’re mostly high quality, classy-looking books, regardless of whatever’s printed inside). But also because there seemed to be an active community of Hedgehog-published poets out there, championed by Mark Davidson, blitzing social media and supporting each other. I wanted in!
And if you’re still reading, and you are interested, email me your name and address and (when I eventually get my copies of the book) I will send (anywhere in the world) to the first 10 people, a free, signed copy of ’Under the Influence’. If there’s more than ten of you, I’ll send you the e-book. Just let me know: louisegcolewriter(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll keep this offer open until March 31st 2022.
Meanwhile, there’ll be a new creative writing prompt/exercise posted here at 5pm Dublin time, next Wednesday, March 2nd 2022.
Oh, and don’t forget to tune in to Lyric FM at 6pm (Dublin time) today (February 26th 2022) to hear me read a poem on the Poetry File slot in Evelyn Grant’s Weekend Drive programme. It’s a poem from ‘Under the Influence’. You can listen live on-line, or listen back later to the podcast.