Now that you know who The Editors are, it's time to seriously figure out how to get that hula-hoop/hula-skirt poem out of the slush pile and onto the editor's desk.
I'm no expert, but over the years I've learned a few things about getting past the grad students in their black turtlenecks . . .
1. Read the magazine. Get acquainted. Try to read more than one issue, if possible; if you're strapped for cash, buy a back issue at a reduced rate. Subscribing to said mag is even better. We wouldn't dream of trying to sneak into a movie theatre, yet there's this assumption we can waltz right into a full house without paying the price of admission.
2. This will be on the quiz. You should be able, upon being asked, to describe a mag's aesthetic, the writers whose work s/he tends toward accepting, to characterize, in a few words, the magazine or publisher's jizz. If you can't, don't send.
3. Cover letter etiquette. I learned this back at UW where I did my MFA and worked in the creative writing office: watch it with the cover letter. If you sound like a novice, you ain't making it to the editor's desk. Tell-tale novice signs: (1) listing every publication, including your illustrious appearance in Dog Shit, (2) explaining your poems, (3) scented stationary, (4) name dropping, (5) being overly chatty and cozy-cozy. Brief and to the point, please. I liken it to the Soup Nazi Seinfeld episode--get in there, politely state your needs, and get OUT. With one exception: if you read the last issue, and you love a poem they published, share away!
4. Don't get nasty. I know it bruises your ego to pieces and causes endless nights of sweaty sheets wrapped around your ankles, but do you have to take your rejection out on the poor editor? Keep you disgruntled self to yourself. If you have to vent, pin the rejection slip to a dart board and aim good and hard. If you get mouthy, you'll be 86ed faster than you can say "ABABCDCD."
5. Think of it as a lifelong pursuit. When I was a wee bud-ling poet, Michele Glazer gave me a priceless piece of advice: think of it as building a relationship with a magazine, not a one-shot deal. She showed me her files, one for each magazine, and each file was THICK. She went back and forth with The Georgia Review six or more times about . . . a semi-colon. I don't know about you, but I like long-term relationships; I like making friends and keeping them. And I don't believe in friendships happening overnight. Editors feel the same way.
6. Cherish your rejection slips. Yep, that's right. All kidding aside, I've kept every single one of mine, and they're all neatly filed with a date scrawled on the back. I'm not a masochist; I just like having a record of my 30+ year devotion to poetry and the pursuit of publication.
Yeah, I hate rejection, too. Yelling You'll regret this! stops the temporary bleeding quite well, and then I go upstairs, staple the envelope to the slip, write the date on the back, and add it to the file. Why? Because my goal is to eventually get my poem into whatever magazine just rejected me.
Next post, how to make your poems hula!