Below are the answers to common questions many people have about poetry, the Poetry Society and poetry publication. We are happy to answer your queries by telephone or email, but please check here first to see whether your question has already been answered.
It is important to know that you are not alone. Thousands of people write poetry and a high percentage of those people want to be published. Although not completely unheard of, it is very rare for a poet to be published who has not already had single poems published in accredited poetry magazines or some success in reputable competitions.
It is equally important to know that publishing companies devote a tiny percentage of their total budget to poetry and small presses receive more poetry than they know what to do with. Bookshops, in turn, do not stock vast numbers of poetry books from mainstream publishers and very, very few from small presses. The reason for this is that sales of poetry books, Heaney apart, are tiny.
Writing is a solitary pursuit. It is not always easy for you or your friends and family to be objective about your writing. So it is very important that as a writer of poetry you are also a reader of poetry. You can always request specific books from your local library. Many people find it useful to attend workshops.
Should you want more in-depth information, reading lists, workshop contacts, etc. then you may want to join the Poetry Society.
Step one is to submit poems to magazines and enter reputable poetry competitions. Step two, after you have had poems accepted in magazines, is to contact small presses and poetry publishers.
The best source of information about small presses is The Small Press Guide (Writers Bookshop, published annually). Two writers' guides which give lists of publishers and magazines as well as advice about preparing for publication are:
There are also numerous books on the subject such as How to Publish Your Poetry by Peter Finch and Writing Poetry by John Whitworth.
If you are submitting work to be considered for Poetry Review, you should send it to: Poetry Review at 22 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BX. Your poems must be typed on one side of A4 paper and you must include an SAE to receive a reply. Full submission guidelines are available here. Submissions to the magazine are not accepted via email.
Members of the Poetry Society have the opportunity to have their poems considered for publication in Poetry News; check your latest issue for the current theme and details of how to submit.
Critical assessment is available through the Poetry Society's Poetry Prescription service or 1-to-1 advice with Poetry Surgeries at the Poetry Cafe in London and the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. If you are based in London we also suggest looking into courses at the Poetry School.
The Society of Authors website has a comprehensive FAQ page. If you are looking for details of copyright holders for specific poets, we recommend the WATCH database. The Legal Advice Centre, Queen Mary, University of London offers advice for writers, musicians, painters, performers, designers and sculptors.
The Poetry Society produces Poetry Review every quarter, for more information about this and our other publications, see our publications page. For comprehensive lists you might like to take a look at:
Please note that the Poetry Society is not a publishing house. However, there are several places you can go to for information:
The Poetry Society has a database of poets. We do not give out personal information, but are happy to forward on any correspondence if we have current details on file. Email us or send correspondence, with proper postage to forward, to: Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX.
Also check the Society of Authors database.
What competitions do you recommend?
Information about competitions the Poetry Society runs can be found on our competitions page.
Members can request an up-to-date list of competitions from the Poetry Society; otherwise, check the Poetry Library website for a comprehensive list.
For questions about poetry competitions you suspect to be of ill-repute, we suggest the Winning Writers site.
Where do I find out about grants & funding?
Regional Arts Council Boards have lots of advice. See also the Society of Authors.
Any poetry on audio suggestions?
There are several places you could try:
How do I find an agent?
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (London: A & C Black) has a section on literary agents. Please note the Society of Authors comment on their website: "It is sometimes said that it can be harder to get an agent than a publisher... Very few agents take on academic, technical, professional or educational works, poetry, memoirs or short stories. Even fiction may not be attractive to an agent unless your first novel sold reasonably well and you can add the lure of enticing titles to come. Alas, agents are particularly hesitant about taking on authors writing in their retirement when the chances of building up a lasting full-time career are reduced..."
There are several avenues you might try:
Is there anything available about special interest groups?
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (London: A & C Black) contains a section of societies, organisations and clubs. It lists, amongst others, The Browning Society and the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society.
See also the Alliance of Literary Societies website.
'Vanity' presses and publishing - what's it all about?
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (London: A & C Black) has a section called 'Vanity Publishing'.
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (London: A & C Black) - the Poetry Organisations section has a brief list of venues. See also your local listings, Time Out, Hot Tickets, etc. - by reading these regularly, you can get a good sense of the regular poetry performance venues. The Poetry Cafe has a long standing open mic night, Poetry Unplugged, every Tuesday.
You may wish to add your information to our Poetry Landmarks page. To nominate your event as a landmark click here. Putting your information on Poetry Landmarks will increase the chances of someone finding your event when searching the internet (and it's free).
Alternatively, if you would like to place an advert, please see our advertising rates.
The Poetry Library may be able to help you.