1. Allison Joseph's CRWROPPS Listings- All but one of my publications came from the calls for submissions that Allison Joseph so graciously sends out daily. A lot of newer publications seem to list with her and new mags seem to be more open to publishing less established poets. I get the emails sent to me but that's not a requirement, you can just go check the website daily. There usually ends up being about 5-6 emails daily which include calls for submissions, contest info, and jobs in academia. I can usually find something to submit to a few times a week. I just save the emails and then hit them all at once during a submission frenzy.
2. Duotrope- Duotrope is a database of lit mags and journals, both on and offline. I love to use the search feature. Say I've got a narrative poem, I can search the keyword "narrative" and journals that have the word "narrative" in their descriptions will come up. I also like to search by journals that accept electronic submissions.
3. Other poets- If I hear another poet got a poem accepted or rejected from somewhere, I'm going to check that place out and send there too.
Allison Joseph and her husband actually gave a publishing workshop at FIU when I was there. I got the idea to keep the cover letter simple from them. Here's the cover letter I send:
I am pleased to submit my poems, "poem title 1," "poem title 2," "etc." for your review.
I am currently a 2nd year poet in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Virginia. My poetry has previously been published in Torch, Conte, Assisi, and Diverse Voices Quarterly.
(contact info or any other info the submissions guidelines say you should include).
Thank you for your consideration!
When I had no publication credits or anything, I just listed the poems I was sending, thanked them, and signed off. One of my professor's joked that an editor might be tricked into thinking you were a well-known poet who doesn't need to list publication credits if you did it this way.
Picking the Poems
I've consistently been in poetry workshops since 2007 so I tend to send the best poems that I've workshopped. I don't intend to send poems w/a similar theme but that seems to happen because I'm usually sending poems I've written in the same time frame. Most journals seem to want you to send between 3-5 poems but this varies so you have to read the submission guidelines. The guidelines are often very specific and even include instructions on how they want the subject line of your submission email to read.
In my Summer 2010 submission packet of 5 poems, I've actually got two poems that use a similar line. I couldn't decide which poem should own the line so I just sent them both. One starts the packet and one is at the end. I don't know how this will go over but I doubt any one place will want both so this could work out lol. I'll keep you posted!
I just try to send what I feel like is my best at the time.
Sending Them Off
Right now I'm really focusing on electronic submissions. I hate mailing things. I especially hate mailing things and getting rejected lol. If I have a 93% chance of being rejected, for now, I like the effortlessness of email submissions.
I think unless someone specifically says not to, always send that brief cover letter. That way it doesn't appear that you are just sending your poems out as quickly as possible to whomever will read them, even though you really are, but at least you took the time to include a letter!
That's all I have. If anyone has any other good submission tips...leave them in the comments please!