It was a lovely surprise to learn that my poem “Restraints”, first published in takahē, had been selected for inclusion in the 2022 edition of Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems, edited and introduced by Louise Wallace. It’s a beautifully produced selection of 25 poems first published in 2022 – please check it out:
Back into writing poetry
Earlier this year, I returned to writing poetry. I’d been focused on writing fiction since the publication of my 2016 poetry collection New Sea Land, with the exception of the music poems I wrote for my 2019 chapbook Big Hair Was Everywhere – most of which dated from 2016-17 anyway.
It was a real joy to return to writing poetry after five years focused on fiction, but I went into it thinking that there were few to no magazines left in Aotearoa that published poetry. Happily, I was wrong about that.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list – check out the New Zealand Poetry Society website for more poetry markets – but here are some poetry magazines I submitted work to in 2022, together with how I got on.
(There are all sorts of ways to get your poetry out there – live performances, competitions, videos, anthologies. Time permitting, I’ll post more about those next year – including what I’ve learned about poetry in Aotearoa from editing the 2021 and 2022 New Zealand Poetry Society anthologies, Kissing a Ghost and Alarm & Longing.)
How I got on
I had poems accepted and published by:
a fine line – “Villagers” in a fine line, Autumn 2022, p. 24
takahē – “Restraints” and “Bento Box, Mt Victoria” in takahē 105, August 2022 (online edition)
Landfall – “Uncles” in Landfall 244, pp. 154-155. (I’m particularly chuffed about that one, as I’ve had reviews published in Landfall previously, but never poetry.)
broadsheet – “The Passage South” in broadsheet 30, November 2022
Tarot – “She Fell Away” and “Closer to the river” in Tarot 5, December 2022.
Thank you to the editors of those magazines!
I submitted unsuccessfully to Poetry New Zealand (which is an excellent yearly magazine/anthology that I’ll definitely be trying again), two competitions, and in a swing-for-the-fences moment, Asimov’s – another place I haven’t been published but would like to be. Happily, there are plenty of other science fiction poetry markets.
I’m very pleased with that ratio of acceptances to submissions – but experience has taught me that one good year of getting work accepted doesn’t guarantee another. Nevertheless, once my current round of novel revisions is finished, I plan to dip my bucket in the poetry well once again – I still have a bunch of ideas for poems, and some partial drafts, to pursue. I hope there will be a collection’s worth of publishable poems by the time I’ve finished.
What I learned
These are pragmatic comments about how to maximise the effectiveness of your submissions, rather than advice on how to write poetry!
Follow the guidelines. If a magazine says they want to see up to five poems, don’t send them six – it will just piss them off. (Well, it would if I was the editor.) If they say they want poems of up to 40 lines, don’t send them a 50-line poem, and so forth. And whatever you do, don’t send the editor a poem they’ve previously rejected! (I don’t *think* I’ve ever done this, and I try really hard not to.)
Find out what the editor likes. What style of poetry do they write themselves? Is that the style of poetry they tend to select for publication, or do they select a wide range of poems and poets? Have they posted or commented about what sort of poems they are seeing too much of, or not enough of?
Find about the journal. Bonza Bush Poetry and the Extremely Academic Magazine of Post-Post-Post Modernist Poetics are unlikely to publish similar poems: which one is your work better suited for?
Send a range of work. This is one I have learned from editing poetry myself: if I have a range of poems I could submit, I try to include some shorter poems as well as those that are near the length limit, some lighter poems as well as serious ones, etc. Be that poet who gives the editor a range of options when they are completing their selection for an issue.
Submit earlier rather than later in the submission window if you can. Because I tend to be deadline-focused, I don’t often follow my own advice here. But if a magazine says “submissions are open from 1 September to 1 November” and you have poems that are ready to submit, I’d get them in early in the window if possible – that probably gives you the best opportunity to get your work, and particularly longer or more complex poems, selected.
Send your best work. What a cliche! But it’s true.
Be gracious. Nobody likes having work rejected – I certainly don’t – but don’t take it out on the editor. From my own experience, poetry editors are battling against time pressures, money pressures, fatigue and other commitments to do the best job they possibly can, and they almost always receive far more poems than can be fitted into an issue. Plus, complaining isn’t likely to make the editor look more favourably on your next submission.
I’m very pleased that my poem “Not for me the sunlit uplands,” first published in New Sea Land, is included in this new anthology. I’m looking forward to the Wellington launch on 14 July – check out the details below:
Auckland University Press invites you to the launch of NO OTHER PLACE TO STAND: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CLIMATE CHANGE POETRY FROM AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND.
Join editors Jordan Hamel, Rebecca Hawkes, Erik Kennedy and Essa Ranapiri – as well as plenty of special guests – to the celebration and launch party of this brilliant new anthology.
6pm, Thursday 14 July
9 Edward Street
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/389905359776491
Editors’ note: We’re also planning a Te Waipounamu launch for the anthology with Word Christchurch later in the year.
With a new analysis showing that rapid sea level rise is going to hit Aotearoa earlier and harder than expected – with Wellington one of the areas to be worst hit – this feels like a good, or at least appropriate, time to bring back my poem “The Last Days of the Coastal Property Boom”, first published in my 2016 collection New Sea Land and then republished on the excellent Talk Wellington blog.
We need to reduce emissions, massively and urgently, but we also need to deal as best we can with the climate effects that are already coming – worse floods, worse droughts, more sea level rise. Check out the draft National Adaptation Plan and have your say by 3 June.
The Last Days of the Coastal Property Boom
Lights on, curtains drawn, ‘Ode to Joy’
turned up loud to drown the pounding sea —
habits of prosperity surviving awareness of its end.
But uncurtained morning shows the ocean
nearer by a day, the last remaining dune
barely a memory of marram grass and halophytes.
High tide casts driftwood to the bottom step,
spume splits paint flakes from seaward-facing walls,
decking warps and peels as foundations wash away.
This was prime property when they saw it first,
the retirees’ dream of a quiet cottage, snug
between tarmac’s end and the start of the dunes.
They saw the waves and wondered, paced
the reassuring distance from high tide to front gate.
The LIM report should have warned them
but lawyers hired by those with most value to lose
had overturned the Council’s plans
and the LIM report said nothing.
The estate agent’s hectic glibness, the bank’s eagerness to lend,
lulled their fears to a vague and distant concern.
They found an insurer who would cover them,
cocooned themselves in pensions and furnishings,
paid no attention as Greenland and West Antarctica
spritzed meltwater into the rising sea.
That was the stuff of one-minute world news roundups,
helicopter shots of nameless, faceless, drowning refugees
in lands a reassuring hemisphere away.
Until the coastal defences failed, until first-world cities
were sent scrambling backwards from the beaches,
a planet-wide Dunkirk unfolding in reverse.
Now the children call them daily, desperate
for them to make the move inland. Now the house
rises and falls to the rhythm of the tide.
Now the last of their furniture vanishes,
hand-carried down the narrow strip of land
to the sympathetic darkness of the moving van.
They emerge defeated, encircled by cameras,
the human-interest story of the moment,
the last of this rich coastline’s climate refugees.
The van departs for the hinterland, where tent towns
sprawl cold across a wind-assailed plateau.
The coast reverts to sea wrack and bird call.
Waves take all but their house’s foundations, latest
and most miniature of reefs. What remains
is memory, that widest, all-consuming sea.
From Tim Jones’s poetry collection New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016)