A review of Poet Power by Thomas A Williams

If you are hording your masterpieces in a desk draw, hoping, like Emily Dickenson, to be discovered after your death, you may be doing the world a disservice. If you think that getting your poetry published is an impossible task, you haven’t read Williams’ book.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Poet Power: The Complete Guide to Getting Your Poetry Published
by Thomas A Williams
Sentient Publications
2002, pb, 200pgs
ISBN: 1-59181-002-7

Are you a closet poet? Or perhaps you have been writing and occasionally publishing your work, but want to take your poetry “career” to the next level, to make something more of your work. Thomas A. Williams, in his new book Poet Power! The Practical Poet’s Complete Guide to Getting Published, says that poets have a duty, not only to “give voice to their insights” but also to publish their work. If you are hording your masterpieces in a desk draw, hoping, like Emily Dickenson, to be discovered after your death, you may be doing the world a disservice. If you think that getting your poetry published is an impossible task, you haven’t read Williams’ book. This simple, easily read guide will not tell you how to write good poetry – that part is up to you, although there is a section devoted to knowing hat kind of poetry is most likely to get published. What Poet Power! will do, is to provide you with some terrific and surprisingly straightforward ways to get your work “out there.”

There are chapters on why you simply must publish your work, and the economics of poetry publishing, and Williams, who runs his own press and has published both his own and others poetry understands this quite well. The nine secrets of publishable poetry is a particularly valuable overview, not of how to write good poetry, but how to “stake your claim to the limited space that is available for poetry at any given time.” Some of these suggestions may well provide ideas for new work or work cycles on a theme.

There are also chapters covering how to get your work published in magazines, including an insight into the editor’s mind when your poem arrives, putting together “power packs” and a schedule for regular organised submissions. From there on, the book focuses on publishing a book of poetry, either through a commercial press, or through self-publication. The publishing of your own book, chapbook of poetry or even a poetry series is covered in quite a lot of detail, with personal anecdotes, sample designs and models, information on design and printing and even a guide to effective proofreading. There is also information on obtaining grant money, or getting someone else to assist with financing.
The book provides detailed information on the necessity of promoting yourself, along with guides on producing media kits and news releases, having an autograph party (primarily to sell books), conducting effective poetry readings (a must if you want to sell books) and how to sell your books through bookstores and other outlets, with some surprisingly good suggestions on places other than bookstores that might sell your work.

The final chapter looks at how a poet might use the Internet, and if you are reading this review, the chances are that you will know most of what Williams’ writes in this chapter, although there are some useful tips and resources which you may not have come across elsewhere.
In one of the many gray “information” boxes which appear throughout the book Williams says: “Serious writers use the internet as a more and more indispensable medium for the exchange of information and ideas, but not for publication of their work.” This is the one and only area in the book where I disagree with Williams, as I have personally come across some excellent sites displaying very high quality poetry (many of which pay poets handsomely), and the same arguments he makes about creating a profile and name for your work apply on-line, but this is a minor point. Overall Poet Power is an excellent resource for anyone who writes poetry. Its simple. jargon-free prose will stimulate you to do more with your poetry, to write specifically towards publication, to give readings and talks, to promote your work, and essentially to turn your vocation into a career.

For more information, visit: 
Poet Power: The Complete Guide to..

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