IT BEGAN LAST YEAR on 7th January when I made the bold statement on my blog: I've decided to submit to a poetry publication or competition every week in 2011.
What can I say? I love poetry!
Plus I hadn't submitted much in 2010: I had my hands full, and my spirit clouded, with leukaemia. In this first week of the New Year I was also hyped up on writing a poem-a-day (PAD) for the first International Small Stones Writing Month (A River of Stones) and my inspiration had kicked into overdrive. I wanted to get back out there. Observing, tasting, trying, writing, reading, submitting...
The first four weeks went by and four poetry submissions were sent off. Without pause, I was participating in another PAD in February: the first NaHaiWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month).
A further four weeks past and this time I sent out seven submissions. I was getting bolder. I sent poetry to competitions I'd never seen before, and haiku to a journal that I'd previously been too nervous to approach. I got a rejection. Another was the A River of Stones anthology. I got an acceptance:
loading the dishwasher:
how he likes the teaspoons
in a particular slot
and how he said today
when we sat in the garden
"I like the shapes of the leaves on our trees."
Through March my spirits remained high and making weekly submissions was proving manageable. My first month with five weeks and five submissions were sent off.
April, and yep, I did a third PAD challenge. This time it was NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and another first for me. More poetry was written, read, shared and submitted. Following a set of daily prompts this time, I tested my skills with triptych, concrete poetry, rhyming- and free-verse, as well as my favourite Japanese short forms.
The months went on and I faithfully submitted poems every week, and I wrote a lot, too. Work that I'm really proud of regardless of whether or not it has found its home in a publication, or stayed at home with me. I thought about quitting my self-imposed challenge several times. Why was I doing this again? But something within just made me keep on going. Some weeks, if I wasn't very well, or just seriously over it, I'd quickly submit a haiku to one of the free entry competitions with an on-line form. So easy! Then I'd sigh: Another week complete. Other weeks would see me submit to two or three different places.
Week 26: I've never before been waiting on so many editors' verdicts and competition results: currently awaiting replies from seven publications (on-line and in print), two anthologies and five competitions. Phew!
I was spurred on by my successes, and the growing number of poets I was meeting on-line after four PAD challenges (A River of Stones again in July) and my blog and Facebook posts. Through these social media interactions I discovered new places for my poems. I also got to read lots more great poetry as I found other writers' blogs and Facebook pages: names I now recognised from these new journals I was reading and sending my work to.
I entered the most competitions I ever had during this year. But sadly had no success, except for my Commended in the NZPS International Haiku Contest with:
the doctor shifts
in his seat
Any fear of rejection I might have had about submitting my little poems from NZ to some of the big US journals went right out the window. It had to. This was my year and I wanted to make the most of it. I was delighted when this haiku was accepted to The Heron's Nest after my first time submitting there:
first winter's day
I slip into
Getting an acceptance was always exciting news, especially from the journals that were new to me. My ultimate high came from being accepted as a contributor for Cycle 12 of DailyHaiku, where 28 of my haiku have appeared over a six-month period:
the bride-to-be offers
a sun-kissed cheek
As the end of the year drew near, I got busy. Nothing too strenuous, just getting married, buying a house, relocating to another region, all while having maintenance treatment for leukaemia (I'm still in remission!). December was the hardest month overall. Half unpacked, only dial-up Internet access, exhausted: I'd had enough. But I still somehow struggled through my submissions each week, then welcomed the end of my year. Week 52: TICK!
It's satisfying to have been published in twenty-two publications over the past twelve months. An even better reward is when fellow writers from across the world tell me that I inspire them; sending me messages that my poems have touched them or brought a tear to their eye. I'm extremely grateful for these moments. I'm honoured to have my work read and enjoyed by so many people. I'm happy to be back in full force on my poetry journey.
This article was written for, and first published in, a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry Society, March 2012.