Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Good Woman (Poet) is Hard to Find?

Recently I came across a few editors lamenting on their blogs about how difficult it's been to get submissions from women. No Tell Motel doesn't have this problem. Having two women editors probably helps.

Our submission period has been open for a week and aside from sending a note to past contributors, I haven't made any public announcements. At this point I don't need to, submissions just appear.

This past week NTM received 36 submissions (one solicited, the rest unsolicited). 18 of those submissions came from women, 17 from men and 1 I can't tell by the name.

In 2004-2005, men accounted for about 55% of our submissions. It's now closer to 50/50. We tend to publish more women than men (around a 60/40 ratio). This isn't intentional, but the way our editorial tastes play out. I don't feel any need to explain or qualify, there are countless magazines that make it a habit to regularly publish 70%, 80%+ male issues. A few magazines tilting the other way will not destroy the mighty cultural capital cosmos.

It's been said that women submit to NTM cause it's pink and cute. Well, I'm convinced -- so here's an idea, why don't the magazines that are having trouble getting women redesign their publications with adorable pink cupcake borders? I think that would really draw in the lady poets. We love pastry. We also like puppies, kittens, shoes and according to surveys, Brad Pitt, although personally I'm more of a Clive Owen or Daniel Craig fan.

Or . . .

a different approach might be making a more conscious approach to women's poetry. Maybe be more open to what it's doing instead of how it's not doing what you expect from it. Putting out a call for women poets is a good-hearted gesture and you won't hear me criticizing that, but this is what those kinds of calls say to me: "I'm an editor who's disconnected with roughly half of the contemporary poetry scene. I know some women poets and I invite them to submit, but because it's the same few that are being published in the other male-heavy publications, they're being hit up by countless editors and don't always have work to send my way. So I continue to put out male-heavy issues further establishing my publication's sausage party reputation and driving away potential female contributors."

I can only speak for myself, but when I notice a magazine publishes overwhelmingly men, my first inclination isn't "I'm gonna crack that walnut," but "I'm not gonna waste my time." See, I make assumptions about the editors. These assumptions could very well be unfair and outright wrong, but I make them. I'm guessing some other women poets make those assumptions as well.

And why shouldn't we make assumptions? Assumptions are being made about us all the time. Mostly that there aren't many of us or we're so delicate we can't handle the competition with the big boys, so we cower and eek out our poems in obscurity.

If you're a poetry editor having a difficult time finding women poets and would like to expand your list of women to solicit work from, may I be so bold as to suggest you become acquainted with the work of the women here. There's well over 80 right there and the list is growing. I hear the men are somewhat good too.


At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Clearly, this calls for more glitter and unicorns.)

At 10:04 PM, Blogger said...

We're pretty lucky. We don't have that problem, but then we had a cupcake on one cover and Brad Pitt agreed to be on another. It helps to have connections.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger jeannine said...

Speak it, girl!

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Didi Menendez said...

I have never even looked at this as a problem. I see poems without gender. I (speaking for my magazine and not Amy) feel that we are representing the best poems that are sent to us whether they be solicited or submitted.

On a personal level though when submitting my own poems, prefer that the web site be done professionally. If there is a cupcake or cat of any kind, I stay away. Or anything I consider tacky....

On another note, on my blogs I have taken to disco balls until my depression suppresses.....


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Didi Menendez said...

I have been thinking about this today because like I mentioned poetry does not have a gender to me. A publication should just publish the best it receives or not at all....

But then I got to thinking why does it have to stop there? Why are some of these same publications which attract more males to women not publishing more Hispanics? More ethnic groups, etc.. Which got me thinking that me, myself and I have a lame call out for cuban-americans to contribute.

How lame is that when I am cuban myself and hardly ever publish cuban americans myself. I mean wouldn't you think they'd be coming out of the woodwork and cotributing to mipoesias because they have one of them at the helm?

Do you know that there are only three Cuban bloggers that I know of? Me, Diego Quiros and Suzanne Frischkorn. Do you know of any others?

Which brings me back to my first thought. My magazine does not attract any gender or ethnic group in particular because we publish the best we can get. We are not looking at color, creed or in their panties...

Didi Menendez

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Didi, I agree. My point is more that if we assume that 50% of poets are women (I think it might be more, but that's just an unsubstantiated hunch) -- if certain magazines are having a problem finding women contributors, there's assumptions one can make:

1. Women poets are generally not as good as men.

I haven't seen anyone make this claim.

2. Women poets don't submit very much.

I see this asserted often and don't doubt that this is the personal experience of the editors stating this. I believe most of them are truly at a loss and want more women contributors. But I don't agree this is a widespread, general state of affairs. There does appear to be certain magazines that women don't submit to as much -- why that is should be the question, instead of putting this back on the "fault" of women poets (i.e. they just don't submit). There are clearly a number of magazines that aren't as a loss for good women contributors.

Why are some magazines receiving contributions from women and others not so much? That's my question -- women are a substantial percentage of poets, why is there this disconnect between such a large segment of poets and certain magazines?

Why have so many women commented to me that they really like how No Tell Motel publishes women? What trends are they noticing and what assumptions are they making about other magazines?

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Jessie Carty said...

I am intrigued by this because I hadn't picked up on the lit mag issue but I did notice it at the bookstore.

Interesting since, at least my MFA program, is well over 50% female.



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