In my opinion, a person is much better off self-publishing poetry if
they ever want to see it in book form. If one looks at the publishers of
books submitted for review to, say, Poetry Magazine, they will see
scores of small presses nobody has ever heard of. What exactly is the
difference between a small obscure outfit and a self-published book? Are
there that many fantastic editors and poetry experts out there? I doubt
it. I would guess that with so small a market and so many poets it is
only good business for the big houses to disregard anything
‘unproven’. Hell, they can barely sell what they publish now.
Few read poetry these days. You will also notice that when major awards
like the Pulitzer or Book Critics Circle Award are given out they almost
always go to the major Houses. Of course, with vested interests involved
this could be a fox/hen house type of thing. (Google ‘Silliman gang of
eight’ and read about how the big guys dominate the poetry market).
My point is that you can submit your work for twenty years, finally get
someone to publish it and then be completely ignored by the Poetry
‘establishment’ anyway or you can just publish your own work with
the same result. At least you have something you can be proud of (and
maybe sell). And don't forget that posterity thing.
This post originally appeared on Slushpile.net, January 2008.