A Short Guide to Poetry Communities

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If you’re an emerging poet, WordPress is the single most important community you can join. I’ve scoured the internet for comparable websites, and nothing comes close. If you’re already a member, you’re off to a great start. If you aren’t, I urge you to jump on in (and find out how to optimally publish poetry on WordPress).

One of the features that makes it so great is its networking capabilities. You can do a lot more than just create a site, publish your poems, and submit to literary magazines — you can join a thriving community of talented poets, give and receive substantive feedback, and meet plenty of friends along the way!

There are plenty of other poetry communities worth looking into as well. But before we get into that, let’s run through some tips about how you can make the most out of whichever communities you choose to join.

Tips for Poetry Communities

1. Aim for active membership in a few communities that you genuinely care about — don’t spread yourself thin

Regularly contributing to a few communities is quickly rewarded with increased exposure and feedback — especially if you leave a link to your poet website or, even better, your newsletter. That will help convert your fellow community members into readers outside of that particular website.

By “regularly contribute” I don’t mean ask for feedback — I mean give feedback. I’ll cover this in more depth in the next tip, but the main point is this: finding a community that you genuinely care about and want to watch thrive makes it easy for you to become an active member. There are many poets at Vita Brevis who seem to care so much about this magazine that they don’t even realize how helpful they’re being when they interact with the content that I publish. These are the purest members a community could ask for.

So, find a website you can care about.

2. Don’t neglect the “silent obligation” of joining any kind of community

A poetry community is a labor of love. The founders, moderators, and member of all ranks give with no explicit expectation of a “return”. They review poetry, write feedback, bring attention to work that catches their eye, deal with the inevitable though infrequent trollishness and cruelty that can find its way onto their site, and so much more. And for what? To keep the community going.

This is an implicit expectation, a silent obligation, of members within any community. If everyone submitted their poetry for feedback and cared nothing about helping anyone else, then the community would immediately die. No one answered that silent obligation, the social glue that keeps it all together: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Unfortunately, if the majority of members do the right thing and take only as much as they can return, then a minority of more selfish individuals can ride off of their services with no penalty. Knowing those good people will give them services free of charge and with the benefit of the doubt, they can get what they need and never look back. This is seen in animals and in our evolutionary past as well–the only group that can maintain selfish individuals are slightly altruistic ones. Their generosity compensates for the extra resources it takes to keep them around. But a group of purely selfish individuals? It doesn’t last long.

What am I getting at? I’ve never come across a “selfish” poet within any community. But some may not understand that you can join a good community and never have to give back. You can get away with that for a long time. Maybe without even knowing that you’re harming it–and maybe without anyone else ever finding out. But you shouldn’t, because a lot of people worked hard every day to give you that opportunity.

So take as much as you can give. And if you can, give just a bit more than you take. That lifts the community up instead of weighing it down. After all, a community is made up of individuals, so the quality of each member is incredibly important to the quality of the group.


Great Poetry Communities

Ready to give a community a shot? I’ve narrowed my list down to four that I think will be especially useful for established or emerging poets of all walks of life.

Poet’s Cafe by Vita Brevis

Did I just lose credibility? Alright, so this is a shameless plug. Just yesterday I opened up a poetry community within Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine. Right now it includes four sections: Poetry Swap where you can self-publish your work and receive feedback from the community–but also where you can give feedback to others; Get Published, where you can find new publication opportunities like contests and magazines to submit to–and where you can leave “leads” for your fellow poets; What to Read, where you can promote your poems, chapbooks, and blogs, talk about great reads by others, or just look for suggestions about what to read next! And Cafe Conversations, where you can leave useful insights and advice for poets.

It isn’t too active yet, but I have high hopes for it!

HelloPoetry

This is a wonderful poetry community created by Eliot York. It isn’t forum-based like Poet’s Cafe and instead goes for a minimalistic self-publish structure. Every user gets their own account and “Stream” where other users can find their poetry. The popularity of poems is ranked by it “temperature” and tagged by what emjoi it makes you feel like. It’s clever and very popular. Here’s what Eliot has to say about it:

The experiment we call Hello Poetry began in May 2009, what now seems a lifetime ago. I wanted an uncluttered, peaceful space to read and share poetry, so I started building one in my time after work. The site now serves over a million readers a month and is a home to hundreds of thousands sharing their poetry. HePo remains a labour of love. However the cost and time to run the site have increased considerably. If you like this place and wish to keep our community alive and well, please consider supporting in the following ways. Thank you!

It’s a great place to read high-quality poetry and grow your following.

AllPoety

This is the real deal! I think AllPoetry is one of the better resources out there for poets of various experience levels. You can ask for friendly feedback or detailed critiques once you’re ready, and there are plenty of writing groups and contests to keep you busy. They also encourage you to find mentors, interact with poets you admire, and put in all of the hard work necessary to improve as a poet.

It’s a great place for those of you who have serious ambition.

Commaful

Commaful is a “multimedia fiction site” that pairs poetry with interactive picture books. It’s a fun community with quite a lot of activity, and it has a pretty well-optimized app. Poets of a solemn and literary tone might find it a bit too colorful and social media-like to be a fitting environment for their work, but there’s impressive work to be found there and a wonderfully supportive community.

The demographic here is undoubtedly young, creative poets. There’s a lot of poems with a venting and teenage angst vibe and others that are surprisingly understated and mature. There’s a lot of interesting content there. Give it a shot if this is your thing!

It’s a great place for those who want to have a bit of fun with poetry.

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9 thoughts

  1. You illustrate an especially empathetic view of a very real problem in the literary world, which many do not acknowledge. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I will personally be more conscious of making the effort to be more supportive of fellow writers in the future.

    1. It’s a tricky problem mainly because it’s an “unspoken rule” that sometimes even moderators and founders of communities aren’t fully aware of. I’ve since gone back and qualified my use of the word “selfish” — it seemed a bit harsh since I was speaking about an extreme that may not exist. More often users with a good intent simply aren’t aware of the importance of reicprocity–probably because they feel like drops in an ocean.

      In my experience, you’ve been greatly supportive of the poets here! And your work with transcribing old poetry is more than admirable.

      1. These are completely valid points, and further support your article and the need to support each other. With the busyness of life and writing, it is easy to overlook reciprocating the favor. Thank you again for bringing this to our attention. 🙂

        Thank you for your sincere words, I am greatly humbled by them..

  2. Brain, thanks for another great article. I enjoy giving feedback to other poets because I know how much it means to a writer. We all write to connect with others. I appreciate the support you continue to give emerging poets. Thank you for your dedication.

    1. Many thanks, Ali! In my experience, WordPress has some of the most constructive poets I’ve ever come across. I’m always impressed with the friendly tips and critiques people leave on my Comment-a-Haiku contests. More often than not, people leave feedback on three to four other poems for every one poem they publish. That’s a wonderfully selfless ratio.

      Thank you for you constant positive influence here at Vita Brevis and elsewhere!

Any thoughts?