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Top Ten Literary Magazines to Send Your Poetry (and get accepted {possibly})

December 13, 2013


A lot of poets ask me what places are both good and relatively accepting. There’s a sweet spot to be achieved in targeting venues, a tipping point between quality and that need to avoid the relentless psychic onslaught of rejection. Writers want an island of lotus-eating acceptance, if only for a while, to breathe in the zephyrs of Elysium before returning to the rough sojourn of publication. Here are some oases for you world-weary swains, you twisters of time and tense (and tongues). Here you’ll find literary magazines that are good and welcoming (relatively!).

1. Punchnel’s (9% Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 23.2 avg. days per acceptance) “Punchnel’s is a general-interest web magazine written for a smart, discerning audience of adults around the world. We publish continually, with new material appearing every weekday. We don’t have a specific editorial focus. We buy what we like.” There’s more range here than in a dull Western–and that’s a lot of range. Some of my recently-posted favorites include Alessandra Simmons’ Praise Song, which opens with this:

My little sister, I can say—
though I lay no claim
having only met her once—
got a tattoo today. Before
a high school degree, after
a hair dye: Bon Appetit
uncurls low across her
abdomen. She posts a pic of a friend
pretending to lick the soft
red skin. It’s well-spelled & centered,
she didn’t skimp on ink
or professional hand.

That poem is far different from the cute poem about seeing a mouse while eating breakfast, “Ode to a House Mouse”–also by Simmons, but that’s how range works. That’s what it likes: not just variety but variance. Another impressive work is Dealy Plaza by James Daubs. It’s an epic poem in miniature, a Sophoclean tragedy of family dissolution set in an era that is achingly bygone:

A Technicolor world
with missiles pointed
at our family room.

Big sister’s prom dress,
autograph book, lavaliere

The tree at Christmas
with toys for me,
a ring for Mom,

merely change the subject,
distract from the obvious:

Snipers are everywhere.

2. Third Wednesday (12.5 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 44.1 avg. days per acceptance) Says Laurence W. Thomas, editor-in-chief: “Every poem is experimental whether by well-established writers or beginners, but make sure your ‘experiments’ are not made for the sake of breaking new ground.” For inspiration or delectation, check out John Grey‘s “Draft Ponies on the Hill, Mare in the Barn”

I see the draft ponies

high up on the hill in deep snow.

That’s not for you, my fine mare,

as you lick sugar from my palm,

rest up in your hay-strewn stall

Or “Taking the Room by Red Bank Station” by Jeffrey C. Alfier, which captures the melancholy of a lonely apartment rattled by nearby trains:

their wheels a rhythmic labor

over tracks, an earthen beat that pulses

through your hipbones, staying with you

like a faithful lover, like a second heart.

3. Right Hand Pointing (25.40 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 6.4 avg. days per acceptance) With a crew of esteemed editors at the helm, Right Hand Pointing is both uncommonly good and generously accepting of poetic talent. As said by the editors: “We do about 12 issues a year of short poetry, very short fiction, art, and other things. We also e-publish chapbooks, but do not accept unsolicited submissions for those.” Be on the lookout for their upcoming humor issue and a women’s chapbook issue, the “3 Women” project–a special issue planned for 2014 to consist of about 6 poems each by 3 women writers. In Issue #70, guest edited by the incomparable Howie Good, there are literal harvests awaiting your poem-starved eyes, like this one by Winston Plowes:

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.31.25 AM

Or this clever “cut-up” by Brad Rose, the whole of the piece an epic convolution towards a “Movie Review” that ends thusly (and you’ll notice how many of the poems on offer here cannot be showcased outside of the important visual frames they come in at the site):

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.34.57 AM

4. Big River Poetry Review (11.35 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 14.4 avg. days per acceptance) Editor John Lambremont is proud of those features that set off his journal from others: “Quick response times, interaction between editor and poet, ability to improve submitted work by judicious editing, eclectic mission, insistence on excellence, permanent and easily accessed archives.” In the November installment Clyde Kessler opens his poem with imagistic sizzle and splash, an exemplary current you’ll find in the Big River:


Fear has dreamed its summer.
Now it’s teasing through the moon-rise,
the slow wheat fields of a drought
with some devils riding a shadow ditch
standing up and counting the dust,
acre by acre to the sun.

5. Curio Poetry (10.98 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 84.1 avg. days per acceptance) “Curio is a journal of poetry that explores the world at a micro-level: tiny spaces, instants, individual objects, scraps of dreams and memories, et cetera.” There’s a lot of vignette poetry here, scenes etched out of the granite of lived experience. The aesthetic favors realism, a turn away from wordplay. A wordful embrace of the remembered past. A good example is Marilyn Braendeholm’s homage to her grandfather’s summertime painting practice in “1962 Cobalt Blue” from Issue 11:

One was white, like the colour of heaven,
one was as grey as an oyster, and one was
cobalt blue. He’d sit on his metal folding
chair that by noon was half swallowed
by shifting sand, and he’d paint.

Some of Curio’s poems are just as exquisitely concerned with linguistic play as they are in the luminescence of memory. A perfect example is by Alicia Lai:

Fossil Record
or extinction


biological escape

kingdom, Animalia
phylum, Mollusca
class, Cephalopoda

climb the spiral staircase
to Nautilus’ sun-spotted chambers
a Latin-named honeymoon

6. Epigraph (13.7 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 12.5 avg. days per acceptance) I am always impressed by the poetry curated here. In Issue 4 I am taken by the imagery in “Old Meds” by Kenneth Alewine:

Blue cornmeal and Hopi breads

like flakes of yellow paper

falling out of heavy books,

blue circles in the red sand

smudged by mesa winds.

There’s also much to admire about the use of white space in this piece by Wes Solether:

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 9.19.10 PM

7. Gap-Toothed Madness (11.86 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 19.7 avg. days per acceptance) “The Gap-Toothed Madness is an independent lit mag out of Sacramento, CA.We want to publish a magazine of the best literature and art we can get our hands on.We want to do it without all of the pretension and attitude that seems to be so pervasive in the literary world. We want you to be a part of it.” “Teresa” by Belinda Nelson from Issue #1 ends on a dissonant of note, querulous and querying, but above emotionally honest given the context of the poem:

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.53.21 AMThere’s also a freshness to the poems selected here, a quirky sort of vivaciousness to the language that is never overdone. The opening of Isabel Geerer’s “Civilized” from the same inaugural issue demonstrates what I mean:

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.52.39 AM

8. The Montucky Review (23.8 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 55.7 avg. days per acceptance) “We hope to be the antithesis of all the snootiness and pretension that dominates the poetry publishing world. That is not to say that we will publish everything that comes our way, we won’t. We want good writing…. We “like” what we like, and that ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime.” The visual intensity of the ending of Andrea Fekete’s “Man in Diner, Waitress at Night” is an amuse-bouche of the poetic provender served up here:

The streetlamp haloes her, walking to a run down car,

Her reflection stretching, smearing across the window I see her through.

Between us cold, glass, silence.

You’ll be hard-pressed to match the piquancy of Bill Yarrow’s epigrammatic “Liz@Phil” –each tangy line ought to be a bumper sticker on some mad philosopher’s Cadillac:

love was an acid that etched
their happiness into a metal present

but before ten years had passed
their loneliness had hardened

into indifferent sticky rapture
and permanent part-time jobs

9. Red Fez (28 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 25 avg. days per acceptance) “We believe in accessible art and an accessible artistic community. Red Fez is a melting pot of people interested in creating, sharing and discovering writing, music, art and more.” You’ll enjoy discovering Carbon Detonation by Christopher JH Lambert. It’s a vivid wasteland of longing and loss:

This scathing light
sheds us of our shields

you check your pockets
you have no excuses

you are alone on the battlefield
with no where to walk

but upon the dead

10. Ditch Poetry (40% Duotrope-reported acceptance rate; 10 avg. days per acceptance) “ditch poetry encourages work that is non-linear, abstract, surreal, avant-garde, alternative, experimental and/or hyperlinked. The hard line: don’t submit any haiku, formal verse, or mainstream-linear-narrative poetry.” I am in a weird chatty conversation with the neurotic vacation plans of Carla Barkman’s poem “At the Associates’ Meeting” and the poem won’t let me get a word in edgewise:

God, I’m tremulous

From seven Glossette raisins

I would like to draw the shape of the bungalows

At Peach and Quiet in Barbados onto this page in words

Four rectangular blue blocks on a white base but

Now we’re discussing summer holidays & how we must rotate

Blocks of four weeks

I’m going to be in California, my God it will be beautiful

James Diaz reminds us, as we linger on the island of two coconut trees (one named Quality, the other Acceptance), that experimentalism needn’t be code for anti-sentimentality, as here, in his poem, “In the occasional rested, well rested, as four piece, the tone of room

when you

meet, and where, those things enlarge, an elemental life, a gray

tone, never forgetting, saying itself, see the content, and feel it spoil,

splits, brings us in it (on our knees) that way.

  1. Punchnel’s is fantastic (I contributed some of my photo essays to them over the past year). A very cool crew at the helm over there. Nice list! =)

  2. Reblogged this on heatherzhutchinswrites and commented:
    Get your poetry published in 2014! Check Michael’s top 10.

  3. saintweasel permalink

    Reblogged this on i don`t need yoo.

  4. Pattie permalink

    Reblogged this on The Pattie Project..

  5. Thank you for the mention.

    ~ Marilyn

  6. Jeremiah Walton permalink

    Reblogged this on Nostrovia! Poetry and commented:
    Top Ten Literary Magazines to Send Your Poetry (and get possibly get accepted, statistically speaking)

  7. jmpod permalink

    Ditch has been closed down. : (

  8. admin permalink

    Thanks for this list. I would love to see another post like this!

    • Me too–these are enormously fun to write, but they also require a great deal of research and reflection. Thanks for your feedback, though, and do stay tuned ….

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  1. Poetry: Metre | A Worded Life

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