Magazine poems and collection poems

I always tell emerging poets who ask for my advice on getting published that they should aim to have a track record of poems published in magazines first. I think that still holds true, but it’s also the case that most collections contain poems that wouldn’t fit in magazines.

Is there a difference between the ‘magazine poem’ and the ‘collection poem’ then? It’s not a matter of quality; some collections contain very good poems that have not been published in magazines. Equally, some poems that have been in magazines aren’t good enough to fit in collections – maybe you spot an uncorrectable flaw in them once they’re in print.

Sometimes magazine poems have a topicality about them, especially if they’re in a webzine or other online publication. Sometimes they’re just too carefully tailored to suit a particular magazine or editor. Sometimes you realise you’ve moved on since you wrote the poem, and it’s no longer a good reflection of your voice or style. Maybe it’s the subject matter: if your collection is a themed one, that limits the range of poems that will fit into it.

Sometimes you have ‘pet’ poems that you like, but which somehow keep getting rejected by editors. I would argue that if their quality is high, there’s no reason to exclude them from a collection.

Fashions have changed over the years too. Norman MacCaig only put previously unpublished poems in his collections. When he discovered one that The Scotsman had published, he took it out.

In my own collections, I suppose the average is around 20% having previously appeared in magazines. I think that’s pretty general. And I don’t have any qualms about revising such poems, if I feel they need to be improved. Most years I have around 10 poems in magazines, and a lot more that don’t make it.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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7 Responses to Magazine poems and collection poems

  1. Tim Love says:

    I haven’t thought much about this. I rather assume that books have padding (about a third of the way from the start) whereas mags sometimes accept poems only because that want the poet to subscribe. In my first (and only) pamphlet, all but one of the poems had been previously published. Atypical.

    Re “emerging poets” I recently found out about “Mapping Poetic Emergence 1.0”. It tries to chart career stages. See but don’t expect too much.

    • Kathryn Gray says:

      Dear Tim (and Colin, please do forgive my intrusion into your very fine blog),

      The emergence document is a reference document in relation to our project, which will study, very specifically, poets who have emerged since 1997 in Wales. It seeks to pinpoint certain conditions which lead to emergence. It is a discussion document, in its first incarnation on our website (launched late last month), which will be developed over some time. Since it is a discussion document, we have encouraged readers of it, wherever they are based in the UK, to comment on it. I warmly welcome you to do so, and your thoughts on any omissions or further considerations for us are, of course, valuable. You can contact me, if you wish, at devolved.voices [@]



  2. Pingback: Blogs by poets as opposed to Poetry Blogs | Josephine Corcoran

  3. sunnydunny says:

    As a reviewer and an editor I reckon I can spot padding in a collection, and it’s not all that common, except maybe sometimes in an author’s first collection. Thanks for the heads up on emergence.

  4. sunnydunny says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading the emergence paper, and it makes some very interesting points. I’ll download the pdf and read it more thoroughly later. Thanks Kathryn.
    Colin Will

    • Kathryn Gray says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Colin. Do feel free to contact me at any time if you have any comments you’d like to make. As I mentioned, feedback is very warmly encouraged. Best wishes, Kathryn

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