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When You Must Write a Poem -- Sell It!
by Susan Sundwall

I am completely convinced that within the heart of every writer there lives a poet taking up part of a chamber. Maybe you don’t even know it’s there, but have felt it respond to some rhyme for some reason and then the critter peeps out for a bit. Many years ago, in middle school, I was exposed to Rudyard Kipling for the first time. I fell in love with his poem “If” and still have a copy of it in my ratty old diary. I’m only an occasional poet, but when that chamber of my heart opens up, I often surprise myself, and not only that, I frequently sell my poetry. Maybe you’ve been moved to pen a poem or two and wonder what the magic formula is for selling it. Um – well – there isn’t one but I can tell you what flavors of poems I’ve sold with some tips and markets to follow.

Children’s Poems

These are the most fun to do and each one that I’ve sold is a rhyming poem. They’ve all been short and have a specific focus, like this one for a rainy day that I sold several years ago to Wall Words.

Here in my room
With friends I play
The best way to spend
A rainy day

Think of some favorite rhymes from childhood and take your lead from them, or grab a copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Now there’s some inspiration for you.

Holidays

So many emotions can be tapped into for holiday poems. Home, family, God, community, joy, fun and frolic – each lend themselves to poetic expression. Greeting card editors are in steady need of new holiday material and more often than not, require no rhyming. Search through that stack of old cards I know you have and study the content. Children’s magazines and publishers of Sunday School curriculum also publish poetry. Let the words flow onto the page as various holiday ideas envelope you. Surprises await!

Romance

I was positively stunned when my complimentary copy arrived and I realized my poem was the only one in that issue of New Love Stories magazine. For this one I highlighted a situation dozens of women have been in – waiting in a restaurant for a date to show up – and gave it about twelve lines. This poem was easy to write when I focused on the annoyance of waiting countered by the delightful melting of the heart when the dinner date finally shows up. The editor actually called me at home to tell me he wanted it.

Nostalgia

My poem for Good Old Days magazine focuses on a summer picnic. I have many idealized notions about summer, toasting marshmallows over a lakeside campfire and the looming specter of autumn at the end of August. I incorporated all of these into a poem titled, The Last Picnic of Summer, and sold it. It begins . . .

Before she sheds her flowered dress,
sweet Summer grants one last caress
and wraps her suntanned arms around
the peaceful place my heart has found

Tips

From my own personal experience selling poems I offer these simple tips.

  1. Study your target publication and strive to set a mood and tone that will appeal to the demographic peculiar to that publication. Don’t send a saucy limerick to Highlights for Children for instance.

  2. Ask someone to listen to your poem as you read it. You may be surprised and pleased at the response you get. If you’ve touched that person, you’ll touch others.

  3. Write your poems when the moment strikes. Beautiful sunset? Romantic boat ride? Wild and crazy puppy? Let the visions created by these scenarios come out in verse. They needn’t rhyme, strive for poetic. Have fun with your words and it will show in your end product.

When you’ve got your brave up and are ready to submit your work, try one of these markets.

  1. Cappers – Pays $10 per poem

  2. Standard Publishing – Pays $25 per poem

  3. Woman’s World – Payment varies Woman’s World, 270 Sylvan Ave. Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632 or email wwfeatures@bauerpublishing.com

  4. Blue Mountain Arts – Pays $300  

  5. Pockets – Pays $25 and up for poetry

  6. Good Old Days – Pays $15 per poem

  7. Alive Now! – Pays $35 and up

I write poems when the poetry muse taps me on the shoulder and maybe you do, too. Why not let the rest of the world see what you’ve penned and earn a little something for your effort?

© Copyright 2011, Susan Sundwall

Susan is a freelance writer, sometime poet and soon to be blogger. Read her children’s story, "Mary’s Sparrow."

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