dangerous waters/Getting Poetry Published


dangerous waters

shark people

wear shark clothes

drive shark cars






shark people

got shark jobs

live in shark zones




in packs


if you get cut

don’t let them smell your blood

Published in Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature, Winter 1989/90

This poem is part of a group of five I submitted to ‘Struggle’— one of my first submissions of my poems anywhere. All five were accepted and published in that issue.

If you are seeking publication for your poems, do what I did then and pick up a copy of the current ‘Poet’s Market’ magazine. But for goodness’ sake don’t start sending your poems out to any markets in the book willy-nilly. Carefully select a few that seem to be publishing the kind of poems you write. Buy a sample copy of the selected magazines and read through them. And be sure that what you send out is among your best finished and polished pieces.

The poetry-writing world has changed since the long-ago days when dangerous waters was published, largely because of the internet. On the positive side, you can look up the markets listed in ‘Poet’s Market’ and get the most up-to-date information on whether they are currently accepting submissions. Some even have online editions of their magazine so you can read some of what they published. Others accept submissions by email, saving you some postage money— important, if you have a poet’s level income.

But the downside is that many of the publications that you may most want to write for don’t published ‘previously published’ poems, and they may explicitly include poems that you have put up on your blog. Now that I’ve started submitting poems again, it’s frustrating to find that some of my best recent poems are ineligible for the markets I most want to send them off to.

As a result of that consideration, my poems for ‘Poetry Pantry’ in the next little while are going to be some of my older, already-published poems. Afterwards, I will have to limit it to poems that I’m not planning on submitting anywhere, or at least not to markets that are that strict about previously published poems.

The poem itself.

At the time I wrote dangerous waters, I had been dabbling in radical political ideas, and been writing poems expressing such views. dangerous waters was not one of those poems, and the ‘shark people’ mentioned in the poem had nothing to do with the standard villains of proletarian ideology. It was more an observation-of-life poem that had nothing to do with politics when written. It is perhaps that factor that makes it the strongest of the five poems I sent in to ‘Struggle’ at that time.

The problem with political poems— or any political writing— is that no matter how bad your work you will get praise from some folks just because they like the political viewpoints expressed. That can be a bad thing for a poet in need of some feedback. I would suggest, if you are an angry young political poet, that you make a point of writing many apolitical poems and submitting them to non-political markets.

To my fellow poets.

If you have been writing poetry a while, and sharing some online and getting good reactions, I’d suggest that you take the next step and try submitting some of your best work to a few carefully selected, appropriate markets. You won’t ever get rich as a published poet— they pay in contributor’s copies, and you will be spending more money buying sample copies and on postage for those markets who don’t accept email submissions. But having a few published poems to your credit is the next step in your poetic career. Go for it!

Shared on Poets United: Poetry Pantry #206


17 thoughts on “dangerous waters/Getting Poetry Published

  1. The vision on shark people is still as valid as it was back then. Your advice on publishing sounds very real.. Though I will continue to publish here… As you say you will not get rich being a poet so maybe the internet reactions to your poetry is what’s going to count.

  2. Nissa, first of all….nice to see you at Poets United. I enjoyed reading your poem and your afterwords. I think the readers will all form their pictures of just who the ‘shark people’ are in today’s world as well as in the past. Thank you also for visiting so many other poets….in the spirit of community. I can see you know how important this is!

  3. I do like the formatting you applied in writing dangerous waters. It certainly adds to the tension currently playing around your poem. I enjoyed it as sometimes I do write in this kind of voice. Good advises on getting published. Thanks!

  4. Oh, I couldn’t be bothered…not worth the agro. Besides, there are already so many words out there, frightening to think on it.
    Like your plunging worm/bait

  5. Hi there! THANK YOU for the advice on poetry submissions. Yes, you are absolutely correct. You won’t be filthy rich but the exposure and the following is priceless. I, myself will have to try other forms of literature to add to my resume of published works. But kudos to you for getting published. And thanks again for this informative post.

  6. This was a 1989 edition of ‘Struggle’. It wasn’t an online magazine then and I’m not sure it is now. I didn’t look it up because that’s not the sort of poetry I’m writing any more.

  7. Another problem with political poems…if they’re too outspoken they may turn off people who would honestly enjoy your poetry otherwise. If a poem is well written and not just angry though, it may actually convince the reader to see your viewpoint if only for a fraction of a second. But it must be very well written and do more than let off steam. I like your Shark poem and see it as more than a poem of the coming proletariat revolution.

  8. You have a point, Rachel. Though some fans of political poetry want it as outspoken as they can get, and don’t read political poetry from the other side of the aisle. And thanks for your kind words about my ‘Shark’ poem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.