01 March 2009

print and online publishers of poetry; of african poetry?

A reader sent me a request that I'm afraid I wasn't able to answer very well -- and around an issue that has been one of my challenges in combing out The Best African Poetry 2009: who are some reputable publishers -- both print and online -- of poetry, of individual poems and cycles (not collections)?

So we're side-stepping book publishers for the moment and looking for magazines and (little) journals.

Well, really, I think he meant publishers of "African poetry"... More on that later.

There are, of course, the various African and Africa-focused publications, the big ones of the moment: Chimurenga, Farafina, and Kwani? come to mind.

Where I see the greatest activity at the moment, though, is over at African Writing -- which seems to have become the publisher of African poetry. A visit to the AW website is one where you're never more than a click away from verse.

One thing that the initial review of nominations for The Best... has shown me though is that "African" poetry is published everywhere. Borders and definitions don't mean all that much anymore, at least when it comes to publishing. Stop. Let's reconsider: in one sense they mean everything, in that they too often define access, and far too many African poets -- by dint of circumstances though not because of any "African"-ness -- lack access. But for those who have, can finagle, or afford access, I think the best bet, especially for poets just beginning to explore options for publication, is to go local or go global.

You're probably well aware of the local options (which obviously vary country to country, city to city -- and by local I mean, in most instances, at the city & state/province level). Then look nationally -- major metropolitan centers, national universities. Then... Well, hell, the sky is the limit.

Of course, that doesn't help much, does it? Get online. Start reading the poets' blogs and essentially reverse engineer the trail of publication. Poets -- writers in general -- are not shy about posting information on where they've been published. Reading a Nigerian poet's blog? She's posted two or three poems that have been published in journals, maybe one in South Africa, one in the UK, and one in the United States? Well, there you go: three possible outlets right there. (Google the names of those who have commented on this blog -- more than a few poets among them.)

Hell, and if you can get ahold of some recent copy of the Poet's Market books, all the better (it does not need to be the latest).

All the standard caveats apply: try to review a few issues before submitting to see if you're a good fit, respect submission guidelines, etc. And then start submitting. And as far as what's reputable goes, just be careful: no money should trade hands, print publication should at least get you a copy of the journal, there ought to be some clearly stated editorial review process for submissions (if someone just cuts and pastes your poem to a website a day after it's submitted that probably hardly counts as "publication" -- though perhaps I'm just a dinosaur in that regard), etc & et al.

Couple side-notes of some related interest. At some point down the line -- though this is probably down the line quite a ways -- we might very well begin publishing original verse here, or through some related projects I'm working on. But that's a ways off. Still, keep an eye open. And once we get The Best... compiled and published you'll also want to review that: prior places of publication will be noted for each poem.

But, of course, the best source is going to be the readers here. So...

Here's another call to readers: where do you send poetry for publication? Leave a comment or send me an email with your suggestions. We'll see if we can't get something of a list going here after all.

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