Tight and Highly Musical

some very helpful guidelines for submission, culled from actual literary magazines

We seek work of the highest literary quality. Our only criterion is excellence. If your writing has an original voice, substance, and significance, send it to us. The main criterion for selection is quality. We like alliteration, extended metaphors, image, movement and poems that can pass the “so what” test. We look for the best writing available and are often pleased to introduce new writers. Poems should emanate from textured, evocative images, use language with an awareness of how words sound and mean, and have a definite sense of voice. We are looking for edgy, original poems. Our only fixed requirement is good writing. Each line should help carry the poem, and an individual vision must be evident. Be sure you read contemporary poetry. English poetry is a continuum in time, and the practice as well as the reading of poetry benefit from a broad knowledge and understanding of the development of the art and craft. Writers should expect their work to be considered within the full context of old and new poetry in English and other languages. [Our magazine’s] intention is to publish the best writing available, both from beginning and established writers. We prefer poems that are between 8 and 80 lines; serious, well-crafted, and full of imagery; tight and highly musical. We seek the very best work whether by Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners or by little-known (or even previously unpublished) writers. Work that conveys a sense of necessity and implores readers to pay attention is what belongs on [this magazine’s] pages. We are interested in any strong writing of a literary variety, but are especially partial to poetry that engages the reader through a distinctive voice—be it lyric, narrative, etc. The editors are especially interested in original writing that engages in the work of honest communication. We always ask “What’s at stake in this writing?” “What’s reckoned with that’s important for other people to read?” Send work that has a strong jab, work that knows how to sing, work that can endure long nights and early mornings. Originality and precision of language are important for us. Take us someplace new. Move us. Transport us. Run us over with a locomotive of brilliant imagery and voice. The most successful work is exciting, new, fresh, creative, carefully-wrought. We’ll use our intuition and a keen sense of smell to guide us in the right direction, and we’ll know what we want when we find it. [Our magazine’s] core equation: Idea + Imagination x Craft = Lasting Poetry. Poetry submitted for publication in [our magazine] must be typewritten. We suggest you familiarize yourself with our journal before submitting.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Our criterion: so what.
    Textured vision development,
    Tight, musical jab – and
    Locomotive smell must be typewritten.


  2. Collage submission guidelines.

    Nice idea. Helpful stuff, fun, poetic.

    Paul Squires just sounds bitter. I’m sure there are journals that specialize in bitter.


  3. Rachel – Me too. Repeatedly.

    marja-leena – Yep. I swear I’m not making this up.

    Lady P. – Ha! i like your condensed version better than mine.

    Ken – Well, some of it’s poetic, and some of it’s anti-poetic, but probably not very much of it needed to be said. I chalk it up to an excess of enthusiam on the part of those editors. (In reference to your last sentence, I have a firm troll-stomping policy here, but I don’t always get to it right away.)


  4. thanks, these are great.

    I’d like someday to see the word “sticktoitiveness” among someone’s criteria. would even settle for “moxie”. anything but “excellence” -read corporate- (or “bestness”?)


  5. I have the same queasy feeling reading these that I have reading any submission guidelines. Is there something different about these?


  6. There’s not much worse than poetry that thinks it has to have something “at stake”.

    Maybe it’s just me.


  7. english – O.K., if we ever come up with some sort of B.S. guidelines at Postal Poetry or qarrtsiluni, I’ll be sure to include “moxie”! (One does occasionally find intentionally humorous guidelines – Exquisite Corpse’s, for example.)

    Peter – The only kind of guidelines that make sense to me are the ones that explain what genres the editors will or won’t consider (haiku, formal, experimental, etc.). I wonder if the kinds of things I’ve quoted here aren’t in fact designed to produce anxiety, to make the journeyman poet wonder uneasily if her work really aspires enough to excellence or deserves a place with the finest poets.

    Karen – Well, yes, but I think it’s very much like “excellence” or any of the other so-called critieria here in that regard.

    JMartin – If someone hasn’t written a Broadway musical about the inner workings of a literary magazine, they should. All kinds of drama and pathos there. I mean, just think of all the stillborn poems and the crushed dreams…


  8. Stillborn poems, o crushed dreams
    I was tight and musical
    I wrote reams

    They didn’t like my moxie
    (or my tippy tap)
    The eds. called me Ana Pest:
    that was that


  9. Hee. Love it.

    And hey, you have a blog now – great! But what took you so long to share the link? :(


  10. Hey man, what can I say? Anyone who wants to live in an AMNH diorama, or at least behind a berm, is perforce avoidant. I had to test-drive public nudity.

    While grateful for blog’s role as goad, I newly appreciate your dedication/masochism. Multiple sites must sound an endless loop chorus of “FEED ME!” in distinctive timbres.



  11. I hear you. My first few weeks as a blogger were pretty low-key, too. And yes, masochism and shamelessness are both job requirements. It can get to be a bit much – I’ve fallen off on blogging at the Plummer’s Hollow site, for example, and I wasn’t able to maintain a photo-a-day pace at Visual Soma. But this blog, the Morning Porch, qarrtsiluni and Postal Poetry are much too enjoyable to feel like burdens yet.

    There aren’t too many published poets who are willing to blog drafts the way you’ve been doing, so I was happy to add Clumps and Voids to my (already way too long) blogroll. I’ll try to get over there at least once a week.


  12. You’ve given me an idea, Dave. I think I’ll write my own guidelines for those who might wish to write me a rejection letter. Let’s see. It might begin. . . “While silence makes its own eloquent expression, in case you care to make a more personal statement rejecting my submission, here are my guidelines. . . “


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