As with any industry, trends appear when you begin to look at the big picture—and the market for publishing contemporary poetry is no exception. So today, we’re dishing on the trends that we’ve been tracking among literary journals that publish poetry. Keep in mind that each literary journal will have its own policies and preferences; trends are not rules.
We’ll tell you what trends we see (based on our tracking of clients’ acceptance and rejection letters); it’s up to you to decide what this means (to you personally and to poetry publishers as a whole).
Overall, shorter poems seem to be more popular than longer poems in print journals. Our numbers show that poems no longer than one page tend to find homes more easily than longer poems in print publications. That said, online literary journals vary a bit: Some editors of online journals believe that shorter is better in digital formats; other editors are open to posting longer poems online because they’re not paying for paper. Generally speaking, the trend seems to favor poems that fit comfortably on one page.
In general, editors are suspicious of double-spacing. Sometimes you need the extra spaces between the lines to add something to your poem; it’s fundamental. But other times, not so much. Just make sure you’re double-spacing deliberately; otherwise editors might suspect that double-spacing is an effort to make the poem “look more poetic.” Single-spacing will also make your poem a bit shorter (see LONG POETRY above).
Our numbers show that editors generally aren’t fans of centered poems. Again, it goes back to poems that look more poetic than they actually are. If you can make your poem left justified without damaging it, some editors may receive the poem more warmly. You absolutely CAN center your poems; the key is having a good reason.
You knew this one was coming, right? As with all the other poetry forms, if your rhyming verse is wonderfully well done, the right editor will like it. There certainly are editors who adore rhyme and are keeping it alive. But across the board, rhyme is not as fashionable among editors as it once was.
Ignoring trends does NOT mean you’re out of the running for publication. Just be sure your choices are deliberate and meaningful and that you’re carefully targeting your work to editors who are open to your particular style. Poetry is a deeply personal art; writing poems that are TRENDY may not lead you to write poems that are BETTER. Trust your muse to show you the way.
That said, you might want to familiarize yourself with the work of contemporary poets—not necessarily to copy them or follow trends, but to engage in a poetic conversation. Read more: Seven Techniques You Must Know To Make Editors Notice Your Poetry. Subscribe to and support literary journals that publish poems you love.
And if you feel called to write the best darn centered, rhyming, double-spaced, eight-page poem this world has ever seen, don’t let anything get you down! Do it to it, poets!
For more from Writer's Relief, click here!