Swimming in the Slush Pile

Do you ever wonder where your writing goes when you send it to a magazine? The Slush Pile.

(Unless you are Robert Pinsky or something…in which case you wouldn’t be reading my blog).

I’ve had several opportunities in my life to swim around in the slush pile.

  1. as an intern at Agni.
    This was a pretty cool opportunity. My MFA program was at BU, and the old buildings are sort of castle looking. Agni, as fancy and covetable as it is, is in a basement (or was at the time). I took a dark winding little stairway down from the classrooms to the basement where I read through submission after submission and put them in piles of absolute not or maybe take a look at. It was really fascinating to see how people submitted–some so very professional, some on notebook paper and handwritten (all got equal reading).
  2. for the Basilica Review
    This is a literary magazine my friend started up. It was really fun to help create a literary magazine, and since it was new it didn’t get a ton of unsolicited submissions–yet I remember being surprised by the quality of what we did get. I think one day it may be fun to do something like this again–start a literary magazine. Maybe something extremely incredibly niche.
  3. for One (Jacar Press)
    I love this magazine because their rules are simple (and they are my publisher for my 2nd book!)– you can only submit one poem per reading period–hence “ONE” being the title. So being a reader for them was pretty easy, and they also had so many amazing submissions.

In my experience with all three of these places, it seemed like everyone gets a pretty fair chance at publication. There are some people who of course float right to the top, like your mega-stars of poetry, but otherwise to me the reading seemed to always be focused on the quality.

So I hope that is comforting to you! The great thing about poetry is that there really is a pretty low barrier to entry–you don’t have to be MFA educated or have good connections, you don’t have to live in a big city or have a fancy professor job–you can be a total poetry nobody or a SAHM homeschool mom, and still get your work published.

One response to “Swimming in the Slush Pile”

  1. […] What it is like to read the slush pile behind the scenes […]



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