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articles from Sol Magazine
updated 11/29/2006 -



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Create Your Own Market:  Support Your Fellow Poets
By Mary Margaret Carlisle, Project Manager

What kind of poetry interests you?

I know what you're writing, but what are you reading?  Do you subscribe to any of the nationally distributed poetry magazines?   Poets & Writers, Poetry, Midwest Review?  Do you support local journals with subscriptions?  Do you purchase poetry books?

I recently took a stroll through the poetry section of my favorite bookstore and found that most of the names currently on the shelves were those I recognized; poets laureate, international icons, classical poets, the kinds of books I've been looking for myself and purchasing.  What I found more encouraging, though, was that a few books were obviously directed at the niche market; for instance, there was one interesting-looking anthology of Cuban writers, another for cat-lovers, a few books of love-poems, several directed to "moms," a few "light humor" books, etc.

It seems that in poetry, as in all other forms of writing, the writer must carefully consider their particular audience.

In general, the biggest demand for poetry books seems to come from the required reading lists of universities, colleges, and high schools, and from a few progressive libraries.  A few years back there seemed to be a bigger market for protest and religious writing, but now no one seems to be demanding that those books be stocked on the shelves of local bookstores, or the books would be there.  (Resale shops often seem to have a more diverse selection in their poetry sections.)

If you are an inspirational writer, there may be a market in certain religious magazines and publications, but getting backing for any type of poetry now seems to be almost exclusively limited to those poets who have already created their own market, or are willing to go the route of self-publishing or Vanity Press.

To encourage you in your quest to both find and create your own niche market, if you can afford to eat out, I urge you to instead go to the bookstore once a month and purchase a poetry book or poetry magazine.  And if you don't find what you want, order it at the store rather than online so that when the time comes for your own books to reach a wider audience, there may already be a demand for your kind of writing, and a place waiting on the bookshelves of your favorite bookstore.

At the very least, visit your local library and see what books they have, and if you don't find contemporary poets there, then ask them to order those books.  Check them out.  Read them.  Help generate your own future audience.

I’m interested in what you’re reading and purchasing, so write in and let me know.  (Donald Hall, the current U.S. Poet Laureate is on the top of my reading list right now.)

Writers and poets do not exist in a vacuum.  If you don't help create the market now, there will be none available for you when you are ready to publish.

Mary Margaret Carlisle
Sol Magazine Project Director
Ampersand Poetry Journal Editor

Rejection and the Stupidity of Flaming Pens
(A few comments to a poet on his recent reply to another editor.)
Mary Margaret Carlisle, Sol Magazine Project Director

Mistake number one:  You forgot that reputable Editors do not publish everything sent to them, but must choose the best work available. That work may not be yours.  Hence, rejection.

Mistake number two:  When your poem was not accepted, you could have worked on the poem so it might be accepted in the future.  Instead, you aggressively replied using profanity.

Now how on earth would I know that?  Well, it’s because of…

Mistake number three:  You used an open distribution list when you sent out your work.  That Editor, being only human, and upset with your reply, decided to broadcast your rude note using your distribution list.  We were on that list.

The result of these three mistakes?  You received extremely bad press at many well-respected venues.

Burning your bridges in advance is not a good strategy toward publication.  Editors often talk to each other, occasionally passing along poetry that might work well in another venue.  In this case, stung by your note, and thinking that insulting one Editor seemed rather like insulting us all, the first Editor unthinkingly forwarded your note and name with a warning about your inflammatory personality.

I do not applaud either your action or his.  Courtesy is all-important in any relationship.

My advice is that unless you'd rather insult Editors than get published, you might do well to change your response to rejection.  Take a deep breath, toss your flaming pen in the trash, and note that only hard work will advance your poetry career.  Apologizing to the person you insulted might help, too.

But if you insist on being nasty when rejected, perhaps you should consider using a pen name, or at the very least, use a BCC with your distribution list.  That way you won’t permanently damage your reputation with an entire list of publishers before they have even had time to read, accept or decline your work based on its own merits rather than on your response to rejection.

P.S.  To the Editor who flamed the angry poet in return:  Editors are much in the public eye; we would all do well to make every attempt to remain neutral, even when provoked.  Miss Manners always taught that ignoring someone else’s bad manners is better than displaying your own.  I agree.  If you find your temper rising, your best revenge might be to simply use your computer’s delete key.

August 2006

The Common Sense of Getting Paid in Poetry
"Dead poets are paid in fame; live poets are paid in copies."
by Mary Margaret Carlisle

Editors are often asked this question:  "Who offers the best rate for poetry?"  Regrets, but if you want to be paid for your writing, consider becoming a commercial writer instead.  By its very nature, commercial writing is separate from creative writing; poetry rarely pays unless you are a fine poet who has done extensive homework.

On the practical side, most print journals and magazines charge fees for subscriptions or for reading submissions, so they may offer money for accepted works.  Payment is always noted in submission guidelines.

However, also check for a page that lists an endowment or sponsorship, for while a magazine or journal or newsletter may or may not pay for publication, they may offer a prize for a competition.  If so, look for that information or a link to that information in submission guidelines.

Note that some journals and magazines, print or online, do not charge reading fees or subscription fees.  If they are unpaid, you will most probably be unpaid, too.

This is simply common sense.  To find out almost everything about a journal, including payment information, read their submission guidelines.

And where not listed in the submission guidelines of a magazine or journal, expect no payment except for free publicity, exposure of your work to readers, editors, and publishers, and, depending on the magazine or journal where your work is accepted, the possibility of having your name associated with a prestigious publisher.

Before you decide to submit your work to a paying venue, pretend you are their editor.  There are already at least two thousand poets in America who are well-practiced, well-known, and well-published.  Given the choice between one good poem from an unknown writer with no experience, and the exceptional poetry of someone who could bring a magazine a following, whose work would you choose?

To join the ranks of paid poets, do your homework.  Join a critique group.  Be original.  Polish your writing.  Read every journal where you wish publication.  Look for unpaid but respected venues so you can build your resume and reputation.  Where payment is offered, beware of frauds for some unscrupulous companies offer huge prizes as come-ons for getting your money.  And always, always, always read and follow submission guidelines.

© 2006 Sol Magazine.  All rights reserved.  No section of the material contained herein may be copied without permission from the author.  Redistribution fees upon request.  Contact Sol Magazine <Sol.Magazine@prodigy.net> for more information.


June 2006

Editors:  Got Carpel Tunnel Syndrome from Writing Rejection Letters?
by Mary Margaret Carlisle
Sol Magazine Project Director

Editors know the power they hold over submitters.  But we have deadlines and certain rules; if work is late or poorly formatted, we may not be able to do our jobs, forcing us into time-eating communications.

How disheartening it can be to learn that not all submitters read journals, much less guidelines; some poets with great potential seem unfamiliar with the “handshake” ritual of formatting that most editors expect.  Regretfully, because of schedules and the press of hundreds of monthly or weekly submissions, those who don’t meet deadlines or ignore guidelines may in turn find their work refused unread.

But tendering a rejection on these grounds can bring an unwanted response.  Instead of receiving a newly reformatted manuscript that will help us do our jobs, we may find ourselves on the receiving end of the brickbats borne by those very few hormone ridden poets whose feelings are shown via foul language or worse!

There is another way to save feelings on both sides:  Create a sensible set of submission guidelines to meet the needs of both editor and submitter.

For instance, a simple request for name, phone number, and mailing address allows you to create a unique file for each applicant.  Asking for prior publishing credits can help establish an applicant’s credentials.  A biography may also prove useful.

State the type of work you are interested in receiving.  If you do not want poems that rely heavily on adjectives, clichés or rhyme schemes, reveal this in advance.  Explain how you want the submission formatted.  If you only want left-justified poems, say so.  If poets must be over a certain age, make this known.

And if you don’t want to send out copy after copy of your guidelines, why not create a webpage for them?  Include the URL in all literature advertising your site.  Then if you do receive a poorly formatted submission, you may politely reply with the URL of your very clear guidelines.

Dodge that dreaded form of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome caused by writing too many needless rejection notes.  Create your own very clear set of submission guidelines today.

Winter 2006

How to Write Zips and Zip-Rengays
by Terrie Leigh Relf
--with gratitude to John Carley

If you are wondering what a Zip is, or if you love to write Haiku, Senryu, Horrorku, Scifaiku, and/or other short forms, then Zips are for you.  Not only are they fun to write, but challenging as well.

First, here are definitions of the various forms.

While a Zip is similar to a Scifaiku, it has more stringent composition rules. For instance, a Zip has exactly fifteen syllables arranged in two lines with an obvious caesura, or pause, in each line, while Scifaiku are usually drafted in three lines with between fourteen to seventeen syllables.

A Rengay (according to Gary Gay, inventor of the form) is a collaborative six-verse linked thematic poem written by two or three poets alternating three-line and two-line Haiku or Haiku-like stanzas in a regular pattern or form. A Zip Rengay has alternating stanzas, where the first stanza is a regular Zip, but the second has only one line, similar to a one-breath in Haiku and Scifaiku. Poets often modify other forms into Zips.

Here is an example of how a nine-syllable Scifaiku was morphed into a fifteen syllable Zip without an alteration to the essence or story of the poem.

The Scifaiku:

genetic chess--
king to queen

The Zip:

determining their fate          genetic chess
Queen to King                    stalemate

Here is an example of a Scifaiku where the Zip revision shifts, and where, because of special formatting, the poem may be read both across, as well as down.

The Scifaiku:

one last look
before their voyage
Boortean pond reader

The Zip:

left behind                             on earth
the Boortean ambassador        in disguise

A variation on the Zip is the Zip Rengay with alternating stanzas, where the first stanza is a regular Zip, but the second is only one line, like the One-breath in Haiku and Scifaiku.

NOTE: While Scifaiku One-breaths have various line lengths and only one caesura, a Zip One-breath has eleven syllables and two caesura.

Scifaiku One-breath:

not for sale at any price--stasis dreams

Zip One-breath:

not for sale             at any price            her stasis dreams

After you develop some familiarity with fifteen-syllable Zips and eleven-syllable Zip One-breaths, you might invite a few friends to compose a Zip Rengay or One solo as in this example:

so many stars

memories         of those who died
just wisps         outside the port window

word games      with the intel droid    vowels missing

beams of light     pierce a magnetic haze
that star             seems familiar

the air               no longer stale       first mikan blossoms

Atlantis?            Alpha Centauri?
all that matters    is she's home

magnetic pulse     gear engaged         sound of splashing

Explore this form. Visit the following websites for more information:


A previous version of this article was previously published in Scifaikuest (Sam's Dot Publishing).

January 2006

Informational Confusion
by Mary Margaret Carlisle

Places where we poets wish to submit our work or apply for a job often use highly specialized, sometimes confusing terms to request certain information.  When submitting work to a journal, a biography or a cover letter may be required.  But when asking for a job, a vita or resumé may be called for instead.  Here are a few definitions for those interested.

BIOGRAPHY:  One’s own biography is a brief third-person autobiography that may include a few lines of publishing credits, awards and honors, often requested in a Call for Submissions.  (This is not to be confused with a literary biography, which is a carefully researched, relatively full account of the facts of the life of a particular person, written by another.)

COVER LETTER:  A cover letter or covering letter usually includes one’s contact information, or further details of a proposal, usually requested in a Call for Submissions.

VITA:  A vita is a highly detailed summary of one's education, professional history and job qualifications, usually requested by a prospective employer.

RESUMÉ:  A resumé is a short yet specific account of one's professional or work experience and qualifications, usually requested by a prospective employer.

Example Biography:  Native Texan, Mary Margaret Carlisle is the Executive Director of Sol Magazine, Ampersand Poetry Journal, and Poetry Works Workshops.  In her spare time, she is an essayist, workshop leader, writing coach, competition judge, and artist.  She facilitates Seabrook Coffee Oasis Poetry Readings and belongs to several writing groups, including the Monday Night Poets.  Her poems appear in many Texas anthologies and magazines, and are upcoming in Bayousphere; she has published four chapbooks, and has been invited to read her poetry at many venues across Texas.  She and her husband, Leo F. Waltz, reside in Webster, Texas, the “Gateway to the Future.”   www.sol-magazine.org

A slightly different version of Informational Confusion was first published by editor Steve Neubauer in "The Wright Stuff” on January 17, 2006.  www.WordWright.biz

© 2006 Sol Magazine

August 2005

by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor

Part Three:  Library of Congress Control Number and CIP Data

What is an LCCN, or Library of Congress Control number?

The Library of Congress catalog card number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific record in national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers.  The Library of Congress Control Number is assigned while the book is being cataloged.   Under certain circumstances, a card number may be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Card Number Program.

What is CIP data?

A Cataloging in Publication record, also known as CIP data, is a bibliographic record prepared by the Library of Congress for a book that has not yet been published. When the book is published, the publisher includes the CIP data on the copyright or title verso page, facilitating book processing for book dealers and libraries.

For an LCCN Application, write to Library of Congress, CIP Division, Washington, DC 20540.

For an Application for a Preassigned Card Number, phone 202-707-9791 and request Form #607-7 Application for Preassigned Card Number.   When you return the completed form, they will eventually respond with your LCCN number.  After receiving an account number and password by email, fill out the application for each particular book online and receive a number by email in approximately 24 hours. This is a free service.  For faster service consider setting up an account online at http://pcn.loc.gov/

For particular information about the structure of the LCCN, visit http://www.loc.gov/marc/lccn_structure.html

For more complete information about LCCN and CIP data, visit http://pcn.loc.gov/

July 2005

by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor

Part Two: ISBN Numbers

In the United States of America alone, over 50,000 new books are published each year.  Keeping track might seem impossible, but in 1967, David Whitaker and Emery Koltay of Britain introduced the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, a machine-readable worldwide book identification system which marks any book unmistakably with a different number for each book edition or binding, audiotape, software, or videotape. Currently, 159 countries and territories are officially ISBN members.

Why put an ISBN on the title page and back cover of your book?  Booksellers, distributors and wholesalers won’t carry your book without one.  If you self publish, you will need to request a block of numbers, which are reserved in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000.  The price varies for each country. For example a block of 10 Numbers in the United States recently cost about $350.

The U.S. ISBN Agency is responsible for the assignment of the ISBN Publisher Prefix to those publishers with a residence or office in the U.S. publishing their titles within the U.S.  It cannot assign ISBNs to foreign publishers.  The agent in the USA is R.R. Bowker at www.bowker.com or www.isbn.org.  Ask for an Application for Publisher's Prefix. A minimum block of ten ISBN numbers will be issued (more may be purchased if needed).  Or call (908) 665-6770.

In Canada, contact The National Library of Canada, 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+3), (Toll free in Canada and the US).  Or e-mail: isbn@lac-bac.gc.ca

In the United Kingdom, contact ISBN Agency, Tel: +44 (0)870 777 8712 (9:00am - 5:00pm), Or e-mail: isbn@nielsenbookdata.co.uk

Change is inevitable, so be aware that the ISBN will soon expand from 10-digits to 13-digits.  Plans are underway to transition to the new number industry-wide, world-wide by January 1, 2007.   For more information about ISBNs, visit http://www.bowker.com/ or individual agencies.  If a phone number or e-mail proves out of date, search the internet for the site.

June 2005

by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor

Part One:  Copyright Registration

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, and is extended to both published and unpublished works. Copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works based upon the work, to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, to perform the work publicly, (including motion pictures and other audiovisual works); to display the copyrighted work publicly, and in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights are not unlimited.  One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use." In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license" under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties.  For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.

Simply, to register a copyright, visit www.copyright.gov and request a copy of the proper form.  Once received, fill out the form, then send it and the required fee (stated on the form), and two copies of the finished publication (no galleys) within two weeks of printing to the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20559 (202-707-3000).  Copyright registration is effective upon receipt.  Within 16 weeks you will receive a certificate of registration.

For more complete information, visit: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html

(Note: Part Two, "ISBN Numbers", will be published in July)

March 2005

“Precise Word Choice vs Bombardment of Imagery”
an editorial by Robin Stone, Guest Editor

In the battle between word choice and bombardment, poetry itself is word choice. It is possible for each word to be a carefully applied part of an expressive work of communication. These pieces combine to create images that convey to the reader a picture and a feeling.

Harryette Mullen's "Any Lit" is a good example of imagery bombardment.

You are a Yukon beyond my Micronesia
You are a union beyond my meiosis
You are a unicycle beyond my migration
You are a universe beyond my mitochondria

How much imagery is too much? The poet's job is to intertwine enough related imagery in the poem to allow the reader to flow along the words to the meaning without becoming overwhelmed by images that pull the reader off in a tangent, or create a distance between the reader and the meaning of the poem.  According to Coleridge, poetry should be "sensuous, and by its imagery elicit truth in a flash, and be able to move our feelings and awaken our affections." (1)

Good imagery means good poetry, but a bombardment of imagery with no content can leave the reader feeling she has watched a slide show on an unfamiliar topic, and often requires more work to interpret than a reader is willing to give.  Imagery bombardment often fails because words that properly convey the imagery are not used, or because readers interpret imagery differently from the overall image intended by the author.

Precise words make all the difference.  The follow stanza shows distinct, deliberate word choice that creates a precise image that pulls the reader in.  It is an excerpt from "Midsummer Mobile," by Sylvia Plath (2):

Begin by dipping your brush into clear light.
Then syncopate a sky of Dufy-blue
With tilted spars of sloops revolved by white
Gulls in a feathered fugue of wings. Outdo . . .

If we took this same stanza and rewrote it using imprecise language, it would change  dramatically:

Dip your brush into the light.
Then create a sky of blue
With masts of boats holding sails of white
Sea birds with dreamy feathered wings. Outdo . . .

Though both stanzas may speak of the same thing, the original stanza is clearly full of imagery that draws the reader in instead of sitting lifeless on the page.

Imagery plays on all our senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, awareness) often by comparing them. An example of this is this excerpt from "My Papa's Waltz," by Theodore Rotheke (3):

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Get started today, and use precise words to create images to move your readers and elicit feelings from them in your own expressive work of conscientiously constructed communication.


(1)  "Recapitulation and Summary of the Characteristics of Shakespeare's Dramas," Literary Remains  Vol. 2. 2003. http://www.blackmask.com

(2)  Midsummer Mobile:  The Collected Poems, by Sylvia Plath, New York:  Harper & Row, 1992.)

(3)  The Voice that is Great Within Us. Edited by Hayden Carruth, New York:  Bantam, 1970.

BIOGRAPHY:  Writer Robin Pelata Stone, a native Texan, is a graduate student at UH-CL who plans to attend TWU to pursue a library science degree, so she may work as a reference librarian and continue independent research for authors, grant-writers, instructors and others.  She lives in Houston, Texas, and is a mother and grandmother.

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