Guide to Publishing Your Poetry in Literary Magazines

Getting published as a poet is hard and I can’t say I’ve done it many times myself (with just three published poems under my belt) however, I can give advice on what I’ve learned out there in the publishing world so far in 6 simple steps.

  1. Choosing your literary magazine

    This is my favorite resources, it’s basically every recognized literary magazine in the US. You can narrow the search with filters (I usually filter mine by who accepts simultaneous submissions)
    This is another great resource for finding places to publish your poetry, but I would be careful. A lot of places ask for $5-15 under titles like “24 Hour Submissions, Immediate Response,” but plan to reject everyone who submits within this period without reading their work.

    In my experience, legitimate magazines/publications either do not ask for money or encourage a small donation, but rarely have I see a required payment above $3. 


    If you haven’t been published before, go for smaller literary magazines that tend to publish debuts or up-and-coming writers! Also, you can always send your poem to smaller and larger magazines to see what happens— just make sure both magazines accept simultaneous submissions

    If you have been published before, go for the larger ones fearlessly! Flaunt your accomplishments in your cover letter (if requested) and let your work shine. 


    Nothing annoys an editor more than reading work that clearly does not fit in with the style of the magazine. After narrowing down publications based on size, do so by style.

    Usually in the guideline section, publication list what their expectations are when reading submitted poetry.

    Read the work of multiple poets on their website before submitting your own
    Subscribe to their newsletter if the option is given!

    If you write in multiple styles, submit different work to each publication based on what fits! If the publication seems to publish multiple styles, send multiple styles if you want!

    If the magazine tends to publish work in meter and rhyme and you write in free verse or prose, try a different magazine.
  2. Quick, final workshop

    There’s a few last minute touch-ups I always make before I submit my work!
    Read out loud to check for: rhythm, word choice, and typos
    Take out unnecessary “the’s”
    Take out unnecessary “I’s”
    Remove “to be” verbs

  3. Format
    • Use Times New Roman size 12 font, single space (unless requested otherwise).
    • On page 1, put your contact information in the top left corner, skip a couple of spaces and place your cover letter.
    • Place your first poem on page 2, only put one poem per page.
      • If your poems is longer than two pages, clarify whether the page break indicates a stanza break or not.
    • Write the title of your poem in all caps, skip 2-3 spaces, then place your poem.

  4. Write cover letter

    Usually, a publication will tell you what information they want in a cover letter (or if they even want a cover letter).
    If they do not list what they’re expecting in a cover letter, keep it professional! List academic, creative, and work related achievements. Don’t list hobbies, dreams, likes/dislikes.

    For example:
    Jane Doe is 100 years old and from city, state/country. She graduated summa cum laude from the Best University with a BA in poetry. List any other academic achievements. Jane Doe has been published in Magazine 1 2017, Magazine 2 2020, and Magazine 3 2021. List any other field related achievements Currently, Jane works at a job while using her free time to work on her next chapbook/poetry collection/artistic endeavor.

  5. Read guidelines

    Okay, so everything I’ve said up until now is completely valid unless the magazine states otherwise!

    Always make sure to read the submission guidelines of each magazine. Some will ask you remain anonymous, some will ask for 3 poems, some will ask for 5, some will ask for PDF files and others for .docx only, etc.

    Even if a magazine does not accept your submission, they will appreciate that you followed the guidelines and remember that fact when you submit in the future!

  6. Organize
    1. Keep four folders:
      1. Poems submitted for publication (and where they’ve been submitted to).
      2. Poems accepted at a publication
      3. Unpublished, ready poems
      4. Unpublished poems still in workshop mode

Spring Prompts

by Ellen Gwin

This season’s prompts will focus on personification and the themes of rebirth/growth that come with spring.

Quick reminders
Personification can be used in poetry:
1. Take the viewpoint of the object
2. Make Multiple objects speak to the speaker or reader
3. Convey abstract concepts

Use the prompt titles, prompt descriptions, etc. as you please— whatever moves you, go with it! 


Metamorphosis can spring a lot of different ideas to people from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to the film The Metamorphosis right down to the biological term.

In nature, a metamorphosis is a physical change creatures undergo after their initial birth (or hatching). For example, tadpoles turning into frogs or caterpillars into butterflies.

Humans undergo multiple metamorphic (and literal– though acute in comparison to that of amphibians and insects) metamorphoses in their lives.

Write from the perspective of a tadpole becoming a frog or a caterpillar into a butterfly. Keep in mind not all is bad for the tadpole/caterpillar just as not all is perfect for the frog/butterfly.

2. Reborn in Fire

Many modern and historical references can be made to a rebirth in fire:

In Greek Mythology phoenixes are said to live for 500 years before burning into ash and being reborn into a new, baby bird.
In Shakespeare’s Henry VIII Queen Katherine says, “My drops of tears I’ll turn to sparks of fire.”

A modern reference includes Collins’ Hunger Games where a common theme is Katniss reborn in fire.
Also, in Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, Serena burns the house to the ground before starting on a new path.

Write from the perspective of either:
1. All consuming fire
2. An object you cling to bursting into flames
3. A living being (a witch, a phoenix, a cockroach) reborn in fire

igna natura renovatur integra — through fire, nature is reborn whole.

3. Morphing Moon

One could look at the moon from many different perspectives: the light thief, only a reflection, fickle, bringer of tsunamis, guider of sea turtles– but in the context of rebirth, one can look to the phases of the moon.

The moon begins whole, shining bright, then slowly it dwindles or hides itself throughout the month by becoming a crescent, before coming back again as the new moon– a rebirth.

One could view the moon as a good teacher
One could view the moon as ancient and resilient
One could view the moon as one that is many, not one
One could view the moon as many, many things.

Write from the perspective of the moon: the fading light, the decision to shine again, etc.

4. Spring Serenades

So many creatures making noises indicative of growth and life appear in the spring!

1. Give the bugs & bunnies around you voices
2. Make the wind whisper and the sun sing
3. Convey the mood of the scene through them
4. Convey your inner monologue through them
5. Discuss ideas of nature or timeless truths through them

5. In the beginning…

Write on an origin story from any religion:
Genesis from the Bible
The greek belief of Chaos
Either Devi (Tantras) or Vishnu (Puranas)

Give your own perspective:
Write from the perspective of a snake (original sin)
Write from the perspective of Devi (matter) or Vishnu (mind)
Write from the perspective of Chaos (or the entities that followed)

6. Rain Rain Go Away

In the context of spring, water could symbolize many different ideas and is therefore a fun vehicle for conveying your thoughts in poetry!

Water could refer to the rain which helps plants grow, washes away the grime (baptism), sets a dreary mood, etc.
Water could refer to lakes to fish in, rivers to swim in, oceans to surf in, etc.

Write from the POV of water of any kind that you find in the springtime!

7. Apollo’s Precious Petals

In Greek Mythology, Hyancinth was a mortal admired by the god of sun, Apollo, the god of west wind, Zephyrus, and the god of north wind, Boreas. Hyacinth chose Apollo over the rest and they began to go on beautiful, luxorious adventures together.
One day, out of jealousy, while Apollo and Hyacinth played discuss, Zephyrus blew the wind so hard that the discuss killed Hyacinth.
In grief, Apollo created a flower from Hyacinth’s spilled blood so that the memory of his beauty would last forever.

Write from the perspective of the hyacinth flower.

8. What I Imagine in Spring

Create a character who symbolizes spring to you:
This could be a fairy who helps gardens grow
A witch who brings dead creatures back to life
A newborn infant discovering life
A rain goddess

I Am Fermenting

by Ellen Gwin

In my bitter sixteens I tasted like sweet, succulent blackberries. As dark as I presented myself, my skin oozed red sap onto anyone who with lingering touches and my leaves unwillingly engulfed the entirety of the world around me.

At eighteen, I felt elevated and acidic, like luscious red raspberries. I wanted to be sweet but with a bite. I wanted to touch every part of every body, every tip of every finger; the lingering touches did not satiate my hollow center, I wanted you to soak in my acidity while you relished in my sweet disposition.

At twenty, I became a multi-seeded, multi-faceted pomegranate. I was easily plucked, but not easily opened and once inside I was not one, I was full of many: I did not know myself and neither would anyone else. Eat me and you will never see winter again; I will bring eternal springs but that is all you will ever know.

At twenty-five, I am a grape: rotting into a tasteful drink. Soon, I will become fine wine but for now I am shriveling. I strive to taste both sweet and acidic, my drink made of many. Be patient and pure intoxication may lead us to a happenstance connection.

Published in 805 Lit + Art Mag 2021

Fun Places to Find Inspiration

For Poets

by Ellen Gwin

  1. Wordplay
    Poets play with words intuitively, but there’s nothing wrong with doing so consciously as well.
    • Go on Wikipedia’s page “List of forms of word play” and use it to your advantage. 
    • Pick 1 or more and practice writing a whole poem using them!
  2. Research Engines
    • Use research engines to find inspiration for symbols, metaphors, allusions, etc. 
    • Research about: History, religion, earthly wonders, comparative literature. 
    • For example: Because Shakespeare drew a lot of inspiration from Ovid, I sometimes research articles discussing their works.
  3. Read Books
    Stephen King always stresses you have to read to write and totally he’s right. I always write a poem (or 3) after a day of reading!
    • Philosophy, literature, poetry, sociology, etc. 
  4. People Watching
    People watch and imagine a life for them!
    • Think about their past, their present, and future, think about their thoughts, friends, job, etc.
    • Cafés, parks, restaurants, movies, or just throughout your daily life.
  5. Translation
    Studying words and playing with words through translation is a great way to stimulate your mind and find inspiration. Often when we are already working with words, poetry comes easier.
    By translating you can see how words are moved around for a “proper” sentence structure and the full function of each word. 
    • For example:
      • Tu me manques in French literally translates to I am missing from you, but in English we use it as the equivalent of I miss you.
      • However, if in English would would tell someone that I miss you, one would say you’re missing from me to indicate the emptiness felt from the lack of their presence, not I am missing from you as this would come across as entitled.
      • So, as you can see translation can be more subjective than one thinks and is a fun way to draw inspiration.
  6. Make Your Words/Thoughts Physical
    • Make thinking maps
    • Make your poems or even other people’s poems into collages
    • Visualizing your poems/thoughts in unique ways could help you reach the results you’re looking for or inspire you in a new way.
  7. Use Prompts
    • There’s tons of prompts on instagram! Maybe you don’t like prompts and that’s fine, but if do then check out the hashtag #PoetryPrompts
    • Prompts are fun because you can use them word for word or use whatever idea they inspire!
  8. Other Forms of Art
    As I said earlier with words in #5, when working with art one tends to feel more apt to produce art. 
    • Either view paintings online, go to a local museum, or pick up some acrylics yourself and engage with art! Even if you’re bad at painting (like me) it’s still fun and interesting to work with the colors yourself. 
    • Listen to music (with or without lyrics). Sing to the music with lyrics, dance (ridiculously) to the music without lyrics!
    • There’s tons of different art forms one could use to find inspiration, find yours and go for it.

3 Ways to Use Alliteration

by Ellen Gwin

What is alliteration?
Alliteration is the repetition of consonants (and sometimes vowels) at the beginning of two or more consecutive words. 

What about consonance and assonance?
Consonance is the repetition of solely consonants throughout consecutive words. These words can go at the beginning or in the middle of a word. 
Assonance is the repetition of solely vowels throughout consecutive words. These words can go at the beginning or middle of a word. 

1.To set the mood
Different sounds are linked with different connotations; one can use this concept to their advantage in poetry.
For Example:
S’s bring about a mood that feels whispered and intimate (or a snake-like)
H’s to makes the poem sound soft, hushed, or breathy 
R’s sound “French” and romantic (or like pirates)
B’s & P’s seem to boom or pop out loudly

2. Because it sounds pleasant
The repetition of consonants (or in some cases, vowels) sounds pleasing to the ear. This is because it provides a sense of rhythm to the poem and indicates how it should be read. This provided rhythm allows the reader to feel more closely connected to the work.
For Example:
The bumbling bear bellowed behind a beehive.
Slither snakes spoke of sinister stories.
Fiddling foxes found refuge in Finland.

3. To grab readers’ attention
One can use alliteration to simply draw attention to a specific set of alliterative words or
One can use alliteration to draw attention to themes throughout your poem through the use of alliteration at key moments with similar ideas in mind. 

3 Ways to Use Personification in Poetry

By Ellen Gwin

Personification is the act of giving human characteristics (such as speech, actions, emotions, thought) to something that is not human (animals, insects, objects, abstract concepts etc.).

Different uses for personification:
This poetic device can spruce up internal monologue poems, give life to a setting, make images more vivid, create a deeper emotional connection, and for many other entertaining reasons.
Personification can also help readers understand the abstract/intangible concepts a writer is trying to get across.

1.Take the Viewpoint of the Object
Make the speaker take the viewpoint of the object. Give this object thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. 
For example:
Use a mirror or a painting to discuss beauty.
Teapot to discuss family generations.
Use a blanket to discuss comfort. 

2. Make Multiple Objects Speak
Place your speaker in a setting (a forest, a bedroom, a library) and make the objects speak to their reader.
The objects could express their thoughts/opinions, give advice, discuss memories, etc.

3. Use Personification for Abstract Concepts
One could create a character/creature to embody the idea of love, fear, time, etc. 
Examples can be found in:
Greek Mythology, Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away, etc. 

3 Steps to Writing an Allegorical Poem

By Ellen Gwin

Allegorical Poetry:
An allegorical poem is a poem that holds two meanings: one should be able to read the poem for both a literal and a symbolic meaning. In literature, allegories typically fall with three categories: religious, political, or historical.

What’s the difference between an allegory and an extended metaphor?
In an allegory, all characters, places and objects become linked with figurative symbolism within the extended metaphor. It’s kind of like creating an alternate universe with rules linked to rules of the reality of your story (religious event, political event, historical event, etc).

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene
George Orwell’s Animal Farm
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Emily Dickinson’s poem 479
Dante’s Divine Comedy

Step 1: Choose your idea
Whether it be morality, religion, politics, a historical event: choose an idea to model your symbolic story after.

Step 2: Plan out the literal story first
Who are important figures related to your chosen idea?
What are important events related to your chosen idea?
Where are important settings related to your chosen idea?

Step 3: Create your surface story
Create a surface story (the alternate universe) that you can easily find correlations with.
The story can be set in a different time period, a fantasy universe, on a smaller scale (i.e. a family to represent a country), etc.

3 Ways to Incorporate Allusions into Poems

By Ellen Gwin

1. Mimicry

Mimic rhythms or structures

Use Shakespeare’ iambic pentameter
Write a Spenserian sonnet
Mimic a poem/pieces of a larger work as a whole
For example: I modeled a poem after a famous speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

My teeth are decaying, rotting from the inside out. Years of swallowing bile laced confabulations finally decomposed the nerves within and made me numb to my next glass of gin. Bitter and crude but honest I am, no one deigns to come near my foul speaking breath. In solitude but not alone, I let my words flow. 

Friends, Americans, Countrymen lend me your nose. I come to bury “fresh breath,” not to praise it. The evil that one hides will always leak out; the good is often found in brutal honesty. So let it rest with fresh breath. Let those around me be solely filled with stinky sighs. 

Oh but the judgement! Those painted with bruised lips have lost their reason; the pain is not worth the infliction. Bear with me; I do not prefer the stench of bad breath but I must give pause to “fresh breath” in the name of sincerity. 

Mimic plot, characters, background stories, or other ideas

10 Things I Hate About You is modeled after Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

Model a character after a historical or literary figure:
Either choose one of your own accord or look into archetypes such as Magicians (Merlin, Harry Potter), Creators (gods, scientists), Femme Fatales (Lilith, Circe), etc.
Use literary/historical references as the background for your poem/story
Allude to similar ideas regarding religion, morality, politics, etc.

2. Make References

Paraphrase a quote
Shakespeare said, “These violent delights have violent ends.”
To reference it in your own writing, one could say, “They say all chaotic good brings about chaotic events.”

Compare a character/event to a literary/historical figure/event
Model a character after the infamous Mussolini; make them speak harshly and shortly with chutzpah
Model a character after Duessa in Spenser’s Faerie Queene: give them a nature of duality and deception.

Use literary/historical symbols
An apply to symbolize sin
A lotus to symbolize Buddhism
A guillotine to symbolize revolution

3. Read through your poem for associations

For example:
If you’re writing about a garden maybe make a reference to the Garden of Eden or Ophelia.
If you’re writing about the ocean maybe reference Poseidon, Varuna, rebirth, or Ulysses.
If you’re writing about heaven maybe reference Mount Olympus, archangels, or John Milton.

My Daydreams

by Ellen Gwin

Raspberries in rich cream sitting on silver plates while angels promenade around a whimsical garden. 

Human-like creatures with golden eyes and fiery dispositions drinking Cabernet Sauvignons that resembles blood a little too much. 

Crystal from Czech full of peony petals spilling and over the lavender carpets and floating with the movement of those in skirts.

Delicate hands dancing while feet clumsily find their way to maneuver with a partner. 

Candles on antique sticks dripping onto maple tables velvet chairs tickling my bare thighs.

Pearls and opalites kept in ornate boxes while rosaries and aquamarine dangle from a beaded bonsai tree.

Bumblebees making geometric honeycombs in willow trees living in sweet harmony with kissing butterflies.