Wednesday, January 25, 2012

For Writers of Poetry

In the last five years or so I’ve received several contracts for poems, most recently to Ideals, a Guideposts publication, for their 2012 Easter issue. I’m only a part time poet. Whoever is contending for the next Poet Laureate of our country has absolutely nothing to fear from me. But I put the occasional rhyme or poem together and have sold quite a few. Maybe you’d like to move some of your own poetry into the marketplace and wonder what my magic formula is. Um – well – there isn’t one but I can tell you what flavors of poems I’ve sold with a tip or two that might help you.

Kids Poems

These are the most fun to do and each one that I’ve sold is a rhyming poem. They’ve all been short and have a specific focus, like this one for a rainy day sold to Wall Words.

Here in my room
With friends I play
The best way to spend
A rainy day


Holidays lend themselves so perfectly to poetry. A recent sale to Standard Publishing for the Fourth of July begins like this:

High waves the flag
Over people and nation
A red, white and blue
Grand celebration

I go on to mention liberty, God, rockets – you know – the whole shebang. It’s another rhymer but it’s intended for use in a church program setting and for my editor, it worked.


I was positively stunned when my complimentary copy of New Love Stories arrived and I realized my poem was the only one in the magazine. I simply highlighted a situation dozens of women have been in – waiting in a restaurant for a date to show up – and gave it about twelve lines. This poem was easy to write when I focused on the annoyance of waiting countered by the delightful melting of the heart when the dinner date finally shows up. The editor snapped it up and subsequently took one more. Unfortunately the magazine has since folded.


My poem for Good Old Days magazine focuses on a summer picnic. I was born in upstate Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. I have many idealized notions about summer; toasting marshmallows over a lakeside campfire, water lapping on the sand, and the looming specter of autumn at the end of August. I incorporated all of these into a poem titled, The Last Picnic of Summer, and sold it.


From my own personal experience selling poetry I offer this.

  1. Study your target publication and strive to set a mood and tone that will appeal to the demographic peculiar to that publication. Don’t send a saucy limerick to Highlights for Children for instance. Trust me - they won't take it.
  2. Ask someone to listen to your poem as you read it. You may be surprised and pleased at the response you get. If you’ve touched that person, you’ll touch others.
  3. Write your poems when the moment strikes. Beautiful sunset? Romantic boat ride? Wild and crazy puppy? Let the visions created by these scenarios come out in verse. Get the lines that come to you down as quickly as possible. I've even dashed straight out of the shower, draped of course, to pound out a phrase or two knowing I'd lose them if I didn't. What is it about the shower anyway?
Just go ahead and have fun with your words, or lean against the rainy window pane feeling the angst of some long ago trauma, or let your wrath at the injustices of the world bleed onto the paper. You get the picture. But whatever you do to add to the poetic tomes of the world do it with all your heart and it will show in your end product.

Image: Pixomar               


  1. Susan --

    When it comes to writing, there is nothing that compares with poetry when "releasing" emotion. It's amazing what feeling "empties."

    And I love romantic poetry!


  2. Oh - thanks so much for commenting, Steve. I hope you let the poet out often.