Rejection and How to Find Poetry Magazines that Love Your Style


Let’s start here: the way I see it, poetry rejection leaves you with two options:

  1. First, you could keep trying to send out new work until it (hopefully) strikes the right chord, resulting in publication. That’s what I’ll call the passive approach. This is business-as-usual for most poets. And there certainly isn’t anything wrong with it, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t guarantee consistent publication. It’s just a more sophisticated version of throwing everything at the wall until something sticks. Typically, poets resort to this if they’re low on time or energy (who isn’t these days?), if they’re stuck in their ways, or if they don’t recognize that there’s another approach available. And that’s ok. Sometimes it really works. Sometimes it keeps your work authentic.
  2. But I’m partial to another approach, one that has you actively reach out to and research the publication that rejected you so you can figure out what went wrong. That’s what I’ll call the active approach. It’s much more conducive to being consistently published for reasons we’ll soon cover, and even if it doesn’t get your poetry into your publication of choice, it will no doubt be helpful elsewhere.

Let’s take a closer look at the second option.

Taking the Active Approach

Poetry publication isn’t a numbers game (I cover this in-depth in my guide to poetry publication). What matters more than how many publications you pitch is how well you pitch them. A few thoughtful submissions will always be better than many thoughtless ones.

So, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Try to think like an editor. Or better yet, try to think like the editor of the very magazine that you’re pitching your work to. What do you think that person wants to see? What kind of poetry would they appreciate? What kind of poetry would they love? And what do you have to offer that most closely resembles that?

It might seem like you don’t have enough information at hand to know for sure. And sometimes that’s true. But in most cases, you have more than enough. Just about every major poetry publication lists some (if not all) of its poems online for free viewing.

Think about that: you have a long list of every poem that an editor ever decided was good enough for their magazine — just one click away from their submission page. Read them until you start to find patterns, styles, themes. And whenever you feel like you’re wasting your time, remind yourself: “One thoughtful submission is better than many thoughtless ones.”

Afterward,  you’ll have a much better idea of what kind of poetry you should send in.

Poetry Publications are their Editor’s Dating Profiles – Are You a Good Match?

If you’ll allow some poetic license here, poetry publication read like a dating profile — all the likes, dislikes, and preferences are right there for you to see. It’s open. It’s transparent. It’s a digital call for someone like-minded, someone it could really settle down with.

And much like dating, it’s a two-way street. Just because someone catches your eye doesn’t mean they’ll reciprocate. We all want to get our work accepted at The New Yorker or Tin House, but they might currently be out of our league. And learning that can help you figure out how to find poetry magazines that really resonate with your style.

Think about it. If you get your work published in a magazine that doesn’t showcase the type of poetry you typically write, then you probably aren’t reaching out to the ideal audience — and your time could have been better spent pitching a like-minded magazine. Why settle with someone who merely tolerates your work if there’s a magazine out there filled with people who would love it?

Arrange a Happy Marriage for your Poems

Just like poetry publications will be selective of poets, poets ought to be selective of publications. Currently, the onus of selectivity is disproportionately placed on the publication. They’re the ones who weed you out. But why can’t that go both ways?

If you’re a new poet, as many here at Vita Brevis are, then this tip may be jumping the gun a bit. We all have to get our feet wet somewhere, and there’s little reason to be too picky about our earliest publications, which can springboard us to grander opportunities.

But I urge you, as you move forward, to be selective of the lifelong companions you marry your poems off to. Send your work to publications that won’t just tolerate them but will cherish them. Aim for harmony. Aim for mutual respect. And above all, aim for a happy marriage.

About Vita Brevis Press | A Resource for Poets

Vita Brevis Press is a bestselling small publisher dedicated to emerging and established poets, circulating their work in an online magazine and in physical anthologies. Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine publishes some of the best emerging poets out there, pairing their work with tonally relevant artwork.

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Vita Brevis Press has published two #1 bestselling new-release poetry anthologies. The first anthology, Pain & Renewal, explores the highs and lows of the human experience. The second anthology, Brought to Sight & Swept Away, explores the many faces of time. A third anthology is forthcoming.

43 thoughts on “Rejection and How to Find Poetry Magazines that Love Your Style

  1. An interesting article centred around the world of poetry and publishing. I dabble a bit with writing of poems, saying that more end in the bin as I am very critical of my work…

  2. Interesting perspective. A poetry match-up, like marriage, takes all kinds of combinations. Two people can love each other even though they are ying and yang, totatlly different, yet appreciating their differences Those couples that are just alike are the most boring ones. :-0

    1. “Two people can be alike in their appreciation of their differences,” SO true Brian. That’s how im going ten years strong in my marriage. If you look hard enough differences ride off of similarity. It is at once fun, similar, and different!

  3. Reblogged this on Yesterday and today: Merril’s historical musings and commented:
    Some words from Brian Geiger, editor of Vita Brevis, on finding true love–or at least a good match–for your poems.

  4. I loved reading every bit of advice you have given in this article. You have summed up the do’s and don’t of getting published and also added your wisdom and advice to it. I also loved the way you have explained the two approaches to getting the works published and also the pros and cons of both of them.It’s a very useful article in equal measures for the seasoned and the new poets in the literary world. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Brian.

  5. Reblogged this on Megha’s World and commented:
    Come read this thoughtful and profound advice on how to get your work published in the literary world by the editor, Brian of the Vita Brevis Magazine.

  6. Great article Brian. I’ve been writing a long time on and off but this past eight months I’ve been posting my own blog. I also have an idea for a Chapbook but I know the world of literature is a difficult world to navigate. I felt this article may have lifted the fog a little. Thanks.

  7. Brian, this is fantastic! I wish you had been around when I was first submitting my work. Another thing I find wonderful about the research process, is the reading. In looking for magazines that suit your voice and style, you get to read some amazing writing and get inspired. For me personally, what was once daunting has become fun!

    1. Rayen,

      My comment moderator originally marked this (and other the comments you made) as spam, but I figured it’s better to approve this one and speak with you directly. I’m glad you stopped by one of my posts — but if you’re going to comment, please give the poets here the respect they deserve and make it relevant to their work.

      I figure you’re a new poet too, so you might find this useful: as an editor, I can assure you that this kind of self-advertising comes off as insincere — especially when you do it serially. You’re always welcome to join the Vita Brevis community — everyone here is living proof that substantive, thoughtful comments are conducive to growing your following, and your character.

      Feel free to stick around and enjoy more of our work! We’re always looking to grow our community

      1. Dear Brian Geiger
        Please excuse my ignorance for I’m not a new poet but I’m a new blogger who wasn’t aware of the rules and who means absolutely no disrespect to your credited writers and poets.
        I honestly didn’t know that what I did was a cruel gesture from my behalf so I sincerely apologise for such a behavior that I assure you won’t be repeated.
        I am a poet though and I like replying to poems written by other poets, it’s just a habit I have developed and I mean no harm. PS: again that won’t be repeated
        Thank you for your kind message
        Again accept my apologies
        Best regards

        1. No worries, Rayen! We’ve all been new bloggers. It’s hard to gauge what is and isn’t “the norm” on here, and the rules of ettiquette aren’t written down anywhere!

          Also, feel free to send in some of your poetry for publications here at Vita Brevis! It’s a bit competitive, but if we accept your work it will be visible to hundreds of visitors.


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