In one of my former writer’s groups, I was the only member who focused on poetry as well as fiction and essays. Yet, I was stunned when one day at the meeting another woman read a poem, turned to me and asked where she should send it. Since I had actually published poetry, she thought I was an expert. I scanned my brain for a response that wouldn’t be harsh, then explained that her poem was in a different style than I wrote in, and so the markets I submitted to would not be appropriate for her piece. But what I really wanted to say was, “Hey, I work my buns off to market my work. Have you even tried to find a market yourself?” I’m not selfish. I like giving a helping hand to fellow writers, as they certainly do for me. I don’t think this woman, otherwise a sweet lady, was lazy. I think she was just naïve and had not the faintest idea of the effort needed to publish poetry. I don’t think she realized there are hundreds of markets for poetry out there, that I couldn’t possibly know them all, nor could I know what audience she was seeking. And she had written one poem, just this one. Not the hundreds most poets churn out.
She also had not done what I have done: taken classes, bought and read books on the craft of poetry, studied other poets, subscribed to poetry and writer’s journals, researched and followed up on dozens of markets, and submit, submit, submit.
I had just bought the latest edition of Poet’s Market, so at the next meeting I gave her the previous edition, only a year old. I hoped it might at least get her started. I doubt that she ever cracked it open. As I said in my last post, writing is hard. We can all support each other in many ways. But none of us can do another person’s work. It takes all we have to do our own work.
I’ve always liked these words from Sarah Bolton‘s poem “Paddle Your Own Canoe”:
Nothing great is lightly won;
Nothing won is lost;
Every good deed is nobly done,
Will repay the cost.
Leave to Heaven, in humble trust,
All you will do;
But if you succeed, you must
Paddle your own canoe.