Of Sisyphus and Marketing Poetry

sisyphusMarketing poetry is a lot like losing weight — Sisyphian in a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of way.

My rock looks like this: I search through Poets & Writers’ Literary Magazines and Journals Database. I look for publications that will accept a.) electronic submissions, b.) simultaneous submissions, c.) submissions that don’t require a reading fee, and d.) submissions from people not named Billy Collins or Louise Gluck. Once that is done, I have to create different Word files of poem sets. This is to match one journal’s demand for “no more than three poems,” another’s for “five poems maximum,” and a third’s for “six poems,” not to mention the little OCD extras of wanting it in the body of the e-mail or attached or only in PDF or RTF or DOC or DOCX files. Some want your name on the document, others don’t. Some want name, rank, and Trix-Are-for-Kids serial number, others address and phone number only. Some want third-person biographies, others first-person ones (in either case, amusing, as the rejections return in first-person indifferent).

I can spend a few hours of a Saturday morning just generating five to ten send-outs on my Submittable account (the most popular go-between these days). This effort makes for laurels fresh and green, and I rest appropriately, proud of my efforts and not a little excited about the always-possible chance of a future message in my inbox reading, “Yes, Ken, we LOVE your poem and would be HONORED to publish it. And by the way, here’s a check for $50 because we know writing is work, dammit!”

The trouble is, life is a busy thing. You work all week. If you’re me, you bring your work home with you (teaching English is like that). Plus you try to get five days-worth of errands and household tasks done in every week’s weak end (that’s “Saturday and Sunday” to you). Meanwhile, spaced out over the weeks after a four to six-month wait, the generic rejections start to roll in with the inevitability of high tides. Yesterday, it so happens, I set a record. Three in one day. No, non, nyet. This sucks, is awful, has far to go. I know you have a name, but we’re busy publishers and sure don’t have time to use it, much less offer any comment or generic encouragement — all in variations remarkably similar.

Next thing you know, your Submittable cupboard is as bare as Lady Godiva on a windy day. Again. It took forever yet seemed to happen over night, too.

So you slap Sisyphus on his sweaty back and say, “Here we go again, lad. The world conspires against us, but they can’t take our rock, can they!” You press your hands and head against the igneous injustice of it all and push again, heeding the harsh sounds of stone scraping mountain and your own grunting once again. This is the life of a writer — sans Greek chorus.

Rock on, friends….


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