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"Write a correct and proper cover letter careful to include your contact information and be courteous and succinct, have patience, we'll get back to you in 3 months or 6 months or a year or maybe never...."

this poetry business
words from mike estabrook


Even though there is no money in it, there is a business to all this poetry business, I find myself thinking as I read yet another chapter in yet another self-help book about how to make one's poetry more publishable.

(I put the book down reach into the nightstand, carefully, quietly, so as not to wake my wife. It's 2 o'clock in the morning and I've already woken her once, if you get my drift.)

Yes, it is a business: find appropriate markets for your work, write a correct and proper cover letter careful to include your contact information and be courteous and succinct, have patience, we'll get back to you in 3 months or 6 months or a year or maybe never.

(I scratch the pen on the inside back cover of my precious writer's notebook to get the ink flowing once again. I need to get one of those fancy pens that lets you write upside-down while lying in bed. Used to have one, not sure where it went.)

Business, yes of course, be careful to follow our guidelines: send 5-6 poems, in the body of an email, attachments will not be opened, if you send by regular mail be sure to include a SASE or your submission will be discarded unread. Be sure to read an issue or two of our magazine before submitting, only submit once per reading period, and please use your spellchecker.

Really? Truly? Honestly? Is this what this poetry business is all about? Really? Following all the rules and regulations, guidelines and timelines? Yes, that's what business is all about, but poetry too? Really? Truly? No, I don't think so.

(I put my pen and precious writer's notebook back into the nightstand. I take up my volume of Baudelaire's Paris Spleen: Petits Poèmes en Prose, prop it on the throw pillow on my chest. (Quietly, softly, smoothly, so as not to wake the wife. She has a big day ahead, shopping and babysitting the grandchildren.)

I open my Baudelaire and begin reading: “What bliss to plunge the eyes into the immensity of sky and sea! Solitude, silence, incomparable chastity of the blue! a tiny sail shivering on the horizon, imitating by its littleness and loneliness my irremediable existence, monotonous melody of the waves, all these things think through me or I through them (for in the grandeur of reverie the ego is quickly lost!)...” Ah yes, now I remember, this is what this poetry business is all about.


Seems I’ve been writing poetry for so long that Methuselah should be taking notice, but in reality, time is simply doing its thing streaking ahead blithely pulling all of us along for the wild ride whether we like it or not; reminds me, I’ve published 15 chapbooks over the years, the last one being “when Patti would fall asleep” by Liquid Paper Press in 2003, guess it’s time to work on another one. -- Michael Estabrook. More stories from Mike Estabrook can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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©2012 Mike Estabrook • Smokebox
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