From guest contributor Diane Lockward
Diane Lockward is the author of four full-length collections of poetry and four poetry craft books. She’s also the editor and publisher of Terrapin Books.
- There’s a bit of a trend now with plentiful use of ampersands. I don’t care for them as I find them a visual distraction, especially if there are a lot of them in the poem. Avoid them or be very sparing.
- I find way too many hyphen errors. Be sure to check your hyphenated words. I use the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.
- Poems in columns rarely serve any useful purpose. Go cautiously!
- Likewise, be careful about “dancing” poems, i.e., poems whose lines are scattered about the page. Is there a connection between content and form? There should be.
- Avoid pretentious Notes at the end of your manuscript. They often provide unnecessary information. Can you, instead, use an informational note in the poem’s epigraph position?
- Speaking of epigraphs, avoid name-dropping in that spot, e.g., “dedicated to famous poet/ person,” or “after some famous poet.”
- If your poem really is after another poet/poem, be sure to indicate that in the epigraph position. Without the proper attribution, you risk being accused of plagiarism.
- Avoid excessive use of epigraphs.
- One space after a period, not two. I shouldn’t have to be saying this as two spaces died at least 30 years ago. You date yourself when you stubbornly cling to an outdated practice.
- Don’t be that person who waits until the last minute to submit! You know that’s when your power is going to go off. And when you write me a begging note the next day, I’m going to have to say Sorry.
- Don’t include blurbs with your submission. That looks presumptuous. Blurbs come after your manuscript has been accepted.
- Get the name of the press right. Check your cover letter. I never hold it against someone when they misspell my name or get the press name wrong, but it’s not a good look. Makes you look careless.
- Do not ever use the copyright symbol. It’s insulting, as if you fear the publisher might steal your work. And your work is automatically copyrighted. The symbol is unnecessary.
- In your cover letter, if you list any titles of books you’ve had published, be sure to include the name of the press along with the title.
- Do not say that you have been “widely” published. Sounds braggy.
Reprinted with permission from Diane Lockward’s Poetry Newsletter.