Advice on publishing your poetry
How to Get Your Poetry Published
Okay, the basics. Most poetry is not published in books to start with; it's published in literary journals, which range from Poetry, which you can pick up in every library, to the little staple-bound 'zines you can pick up in the editor's garage. And most poets looking to get published start small.
There's also a huge emerging scene in online 'zines. I'm going to skip that entirely, because I don't know much about it.
Picking a Market
These days I know the scene well enough to pick journals I'd like to be in, chose poems I think would suit them, and bother them directly. But this is really stage two -- stage one is getting to know the scene.
This is what I did: I picked some poets I liked and admired, but who weren't famous. (Aislinn Hunter, Stephanie Bolster, and Naomi Nye, in case you're curious. None of them was famous at the time.) I found out where they'd been published. In Naomi's case, I looked at the ack page in her book. Stephanie and Aislinn didn't have books at that point, so I searched online for them. Then I picked the journals that interested me, looked them up online, ordered a few sample issues, and off I went...
Yes, I really did ---and do -- get sample issues. I have never sold a poem to a journal I hadn't read. I know it's an expense, and I know sometimes it's hard to spend money on poetry -- but take yourself seriously. Check out the journals. At the very least, read the website samplers. Or try a large University library for the more prominent journals (remembering that prominent journals are the hardest to get into). If you find a journal you love, subscribe. Subscribing is the best way to support a journal, and nearly all of them need your support. Publishing poetry is a risky, thankless business - sort of like writing it.
I know this sound like a lot of bother -- but it works for me. Haven't read The Poet's Market in years. Useless book.
Other ways to pick a market
Places for Writers is a great website which has a lot of news on "calls" (that's when magazine or anthology or whatever asks for submissions) and new journals, etc. A bit slanted to the Canadian. Poets and Writers has a classified section which also has calls. Those aren't bad places to start -- but I would still recommend getting a sample issue.
The Poet's Market (check your library's reference section) is the thing I just called a useless book. Well, okay. PM is something like 1,000 pages of various kinds of places that publish various kinds of poetry. The problem with that is you drown in all those listings -- where do you start? Well, you specialize. Maybe you're already writing specialized poetry on, say, bird watching, or vampire erotica. Poet's Market can help you find those markets -- which in the case of vampire erotica you won't have trouble with, god help us. Or if you want to start local (smart!) the PM geographic index is a good place to go.
Personally, I find new journals by reading Poetry Daily and by checking out other people's contributor's notes in journals I like. (Matt Robinson's poems have recently appeared in.... etc). Poetrymachine.com isn't a bad place to turn when you're looking for a specific journal's website.
Of course, you can also just ask poets you know where they've been published, and happy. What's that, you say you did? Well, subjective and incomplete, here's my list. Of the places I've been published, friendly markets for emerging talent include Harpweaver, Other Voices, Prairie Journal, and paperplates. Mid-list: Arc, The Antigonish Review, Prism, and Pottersfield Portfolio. Prestigious magazines that are worth a try: Malahat, Fiddlehead, Grain, Event, and The New Quarterly. This list is subjective and incomplete. Also, it's Canadian. Don't be afraid to stray over the border and across the sea.
PS: Beware anthologies.
Yes, many are legit. Most of the ones that are legit are focused in some way, be it demographically, geographically, or topically. (That is, Latina Poets Today, Poetry in Atlantic Canada, Women's Work in WWII, etc.) A legit anthology should be selective -- they should have an editor, and they should be picking the best stuff they can find. And they should provide you with a free copy, and possibly a payment -- usually a very small payment.
Be careful of anthologies that don't fit this bill. Many, many, many of them will take any poem you send them, print it with 5000 others, and sell you $75 hard-cover copies. They are not interested in your poetry; they are interested in your money. Well-known scammers include Poetry.com and the International Library of Poetry. While this is unfair to Utah, be especially careful of anything with a Utah address. Here, read this essay.
Bottom line: you should NEVER pay to see your poetry in print.