Right now, literary journal editors are eagerly reading through the submissions they receive to find strong, well-written poems—so it’s a great time for your poetry to be in their hands! At Writer’s Relief, we know that if you want your poems to stand out, including the poetry elements found on every editor’s wish list can help boost your odds of getting noticed and getting an acceptance.
The Must-Have Poetry Elements On Every Editor’s Wish List
A sense of boldness and bravery. Author Holley Gerth said it best: Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little. Editors love poetry that explores challenging topics, whether it’s about unspeakable sacrifice, quiet shock, or a memory that might seem better forgotten. Revealing unique, raw material will intrigue an editor and bring your writing submission to the forefront.
Core human experiences. Poetry that explores universal topics and touches upon the fundamental aspects of the human experience will appeal to a wide audience. Writing poems about the questions, issues, and emotions we all have in common will touch more people’s hearts and draw editors into your work.
Brevity. Generally, the longer a poem is, the harder it is to get published. Poems that fit easily on one page will be much more popular with literary journal editors. Shorter poems allow the publication to feature more writers per issue, and they’re easier to lay out on a page—that goes for print and online publications.
Publishing-friendly formatting. This is another technical aspect that editors will consider. Poems featuring long lines that don’t fit the width of the standard page will be harder for editors to format. Multimedia elements and poems requiring unusual formatting also take extra time to prepare—if they can be done at all. Editors may love a poem with a more intricate format, but if they don’t have the technological capacity to publish it, that poem will be rejected.
Contemporary perspectives. With the advances of technology and cultural inclusion, many of us have experienced an entirely new outlook on traditional topics. The key to approaching a familiar topic is to add your own unique perspective and voice to bring something fresh to the ongoing conversation.
Multiculturalism. Diverse voices are more important than ever, and literary journals want to feature poetry that spotlights multicultural voices and viewpoints. Whether your poetry explores the culture of a specific socioeconomic region or of a single family, be sure to write with authenticity, insight, and sensitivity.
Experimentation. Don’t be afraid to break or bend the rules. This is a great way to intrigue editors and challenge readers’ assumptions on traditional forms and topics. It’s also an opportunity to provide a fresh perspective and stand out from the crowd!
Imagery and impact. Dive deep into emotions. Engage all the senses. Use vivid language to represent ideas, objects, or actions and immerse your reader in the poem.
Humor. Adding humor or amusing self-awareness to your poetry will help your message resonate with the reader. A touch of playfulness or whimsy can also bring some lightheartedness to an otherwise heavy poem.
The Poetry Elements That Editors Avoid
There are a few elements that the majority of editors avoid accepting, or specifically request that you don’t submit. Here’s a short list of those typical red flags: rhyming poetry, double-spacing, centering, one-word titles like “untitled” or “love,” lengthy poems, and more. Learn more about the elements that make poetry editors cringe.
While it’s important to consider what editors are looking for in poetry submissions, it’s always best to write what you’re inspired by. And there may be literary journal editors out there who love what you write! We can help you find them—that’s what the research experts at Writer’s Relief do! Submit your poetry to our Review Board today and find out how we can help you get your poems into the hands of the right editors to boost your odds of getting published.
Question: Which element do you think is most important in a successful poetry submission?