wear shark clothes
drive shark cars
got shark jobs
live in shark zones
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!