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


Remembering My Very First Published Poems



It was 1989, and I’d been writing poetry furiously for about a year, and I started to think about that oh-so-scary topic, publication. Since I was in my Youthful Marxist Phase at the time, the entry for ‘Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature’ really intrigued me. I picked out a batch of my angriest socialist poetic rantings and sent them off.

I did not have high hopes. I’d send out a few other poems and been rejected. But this time I got word back that my poems— all I sent for that batch, I think— had been accepted and would be published in the Winter 1989-90 issue.

StruggleTOCWhen my two contributor’s copies came it was exciting to see my name in the Table of Contents, and the cool communist propaganda art on the cover. I enjoyed reading my five poems in the magazine just as if I hadn’t read them loads of times before.

The poems were:

Democracy (R) USA

Panama’s Child, Christmas Eve 1989

The Parttiming Minimumwaging Blues

Dangerous Waters

And What this Country Needs Is a Good 5 Cent Revolution

Most of these poems I know realize are not the best even from among the works I was producing at the time. But I worked hard on them and I worked hard on getting the poems out there to potential publishers, and it paid off.

I honestly think that ANYONE who writes poetry who keeps on writing poetry, and reading poetry, and trying to improve the level of their work and is willing to send out poems regularly to appropriate markets, will in time get at least a poem or two published. You may not be the most talented poet in the world, but you have an excellent chance to get published SOMEWHERE. So don’t give up. You can do it!




Aside: since there are so many would-be poets out there, I’ve been thinking of offering poetry critiques/reactions of short poems to interested aspiring poets. I would ask about $5 for a critique (or if you have some recent poetry magazines like Poetry or Scifaiquest or Chiron Review lying around I’d accept a copy in payment).  I thought that way I could critique a few poems and get a little money for buying those all-important sample copies of poetry magazines.