Ah, poetry—an extremely personal and subjective art form if there ever was one! It can be tough figuring out which topics and styles will click with the editors of literary journals, especially when trends in the publishing industry change so rapidly. Luckily, the Writer’s Relief submission strategists are experts in tracking these developments so writers like you can get more acceptances! We’re constantly researching literary magazines to note the things literary journal editors want to see in poetry submissions.
What Are Literary Journal Editors Looking For In Poetry Submissions Today?
Free verse over rhyme. Though rhyming poetry was once an industry standard, it hasn’t been so for many years—and this free verse favoritism shows no signs of changing anytime soon. Writing in free verse can be just as challenging as crafting the perfect rhyme, so be sure to check out our list of tips here!
Simple formatting. With a vast majority of literary magazines moving online, simple, clean text is the best way to go! This means poems that feature centering, intricate spacing, or stylized indents may receive less interest from literary journal editors than they did in previous years. Italicizing words that refer to thoughts or memories is still acceptable.
Shorter lengths. As journals become more and more swamped with submissions, they often look for shorter poems so that they can showcase as many as possible in an issue. So it’s generally best that your poem fits easily on one page—two pages at most (and even that is a bit long for many editors). Epic poems and longer lengths were popular years ago (and still have their moments in some niche publications), but in general, it’s a good idea to limit your poems’ word counts. Less is indeed more!
Difficult topics. Life comes with many painful and confusing experiences, and literary magazine editors have become more accepting of writers who are willing to address these difficult topics in their poetry. Also, journal editors are often conscious of keeping their publications relevant and of maintaining a dialogue with the current state of the world. If you’re willing to open up about a more serious experience in your poetry but have been unsure if editors would respond to your topic, now is the best time to try.
Diversity and multicultural voices. More and more, literary journals are seeking work that explores diversity and highlights various cultures and marginalized voices in poetry. Of course, different editors will have their own strong opinions about how best to approach and portray multicultural experiences—but unique, authentic cultural viewpoints are at the top of many editors’ wish lists right now. And keep in mind: Though grittier topics may be in favor, editors still want poems that don’t disparage people or their diverse cultures.
Beauty in everyday moments. Poets excel at finding meaning and profoundness in seemingly simple moments—and literary magazines welcome those revelations! So if you don’t feel that sharing deeper, darker experiences accurately reflects your poetic voice, don’t worry! Journal editors are also interested in poetry that reveals the sublime in the ordinary day. Did you notice the light streaming through your office window at a new angle today? Or, did your child say something that you can’t stop thinking about? Editors know these simple occasions can be great fodder for poems!
What If These Trends Don’t Speak To You As A Poet?
Keep in mind that industry trends should always be viewed as only suggestions. The best poems are those that are heartfelt and authentic, so follow your inner voice when it comes to choosing what to write about and submit. If you have a poem that goes against one or more of the trends listed above—but you feel it’s truly strong enough for publication—submit it anyway! Write to reflect your own style and preferences rather than the latest market trends. But if one of these trends inspires you, seize the moment!
Looking for some poetic inspiration? Get started with our list of tips to get your mojo flowing again! And if you’re not sure where to start researching to find the right journals for your own unique voice, Writer’s Relief can help. Learn how we can boost your odds of getting an acceptance—submit your writing samples to our Review Board today!
QUESTION: Have you had success writing about any of these market trends in your poetry? Tell us about it!