Came across a poetry discussion group the other day where somebody said “Scattering your work among freebie e-zines is not going to impress anyone who counts in the publishing world.” Well, gotta say, statements like that are so annoying (to me anyway — your mileage may vary). (a) Who says who “counts”? My god, there’s enough wannabe gate-keepers in the poetry world, now we’re got gate-keepers to the gate-keepers. And (b) who cares if it doesn't impress somebody on a list that somebody else claims are the important people.
Like it or not, the publishing world is changing. Some of it for the good, other parts not so much so. But it’s time to stop worshiping “the gods”. Many people have made their way quite nicely without them. There’s no need to hang onto the old herd mentality thinking.
That’s not to say that there aren't respectable, established journals with good work. Of course there are. And I support celebration of culture heritage. Read the established mags, support them, submit to them. But they’re not the only game in town. Dismissive attitudes towards startups who aren't sufficiently “worthy” don’t serve innovation or freshness. It’s a form of cultural fossilism.
I’m tired of the mind set that studies your resume with the intensity of an anthropologist and makes a decision on your work based upon your standing with others.
Think I’m kidding? Look in the last few issues of any of the so-called major journals and you're likely to find a mediocre piece by a VIP. They took the name of the person over the work. They were either blinded by the blaze of the return address or were simply afraid to reject it. (that doesn't mean that the VIP doesn't have great work, yes they do, but that's another matter)
Sure, I operate an independent publication. I’m an outsider. So I’m biased. And when I read a submission that has a cover letter, I always skip over it, at least at first. I’m not that into your track record, I just want to read the work.
When you rely on others to tell you what is valuable, you’re helping to perpetuate more of the same old. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it can be comforting and useful – but don’t make it a habit or a “must-do” rule of publication. Whether poet or editor, you’re likely to miss out on a great deal.