Category Archives: Poetry

Creative Juice #178

Creative Juice #178

The strange, the beautiful, and the funny.

Guest Post: 4 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Teach Poetry, by Tess Palatano

Guest Post: 4 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Teach Poetry, by Tess Palatano

Poetry is a powerful outlet for a student’s expression. As a poet myself, I take great joy in introducing the power of the craft to the classroom. Admittedly, this can be difficult. While some students cannot wait to start learning about writing, others audibly groan at its mere mention. Others sit in silent indifference. So how exactly can a teacher start their students on their poetic journeys, or encourage them to begin loving the works of poets like Mary Oliver?

I’ve outlined some activities that have had great results in my classroom — regardless of students’ preconceived notions. The goals of these hands-on lessons are to have students appreciate the craft and get them inspired enough to write some poetry themselves.

Activity 1: A Poetry Tournamenttrophy-153395_640

This activity is a fun and engaging introduction to poetry. The poetry tournament takes very little class time each day, and it exposes students to poetry in small doses while also planting the seeds for independent exploration.

The idea is to create a basketball-like tournament-pairing chart using poems, determining a final winner by reading the poems as a class. Locate sixty-four poems and pair them off, just like basketball teams. Read two poems each day and let the students vote on the “winner.” Do this until you have a final four, and then the final winner.

I’ve found it most helpful when a combination of teacher and students choose the poems. I ask the students to browse and choose a poem from or that they enjoyed reading, for whatever reason. When the students choose the poems themselves, they are actively engaged and feel some ownership over the activity. A combination of teacher and students read the poems out loud each day.

You don’t have to do more than just read and vote on the poems before moving onto something new — the simple exposure to poetry and the gamification of the activity has plenty of its own benefits. Still, I like to ask my students to choose one in a set of questions to answer in their notebooks about the poem that they vote for. We discuss as a class, then vote.

As an extension activity at the end of the week, I sometimes ask students to write poems inspired by one they read that week — incorporating similar themes or techniques we may have discussed. A great time to start a poetry tournament is during the spring, when both college basketball’s March Madness and April’s poetry month happen.

Activity 2: Black Out Poetry

A blackout poem is a type of erasure poem, formed when a poet takes a marker (usually black) to an already established text and redacts words until a new poem is formed. Because the text is already in place, this activity has an easy entry point and is not too intimidating for students to try.poetry

I photocopy and repurpose pages from texts we’ve read throughout the year and hand out black or dark markers. Next, I ask students to identify words that resonate with them, then “black out” parts of the page around those words to create a poem within the text. Sometimes the poems’ meanings are similar to the original text, and sometimes completely new meanings are formed. As an extension, you can ask students to add an illustration or design to the poem that connects to their newfound meaning.

Activity 3: Paint Chip Poetry

This is a fun activity that requires some out-of-classroom resources. However, you can pick up some paint chips for free at a home improvement store, so don’t worry about cost. In this task, students engage in their own word play by selecting a card with at least 3 different paint names. They will then incorporate these words into a poem of their own.

Students will write in each section on the actual paint chip card, making sure to include the paint color in their writing. They can change the form or tense of the word, or even make it a name. The idea is to let the constraint open avenues for their creativity. For example, if given a card with shades of blue, the colors may be named: ocean view, seven seas, and planetarium. A poem could be formed as follows:

I look at the ocean view
my mind escapes to the seven seas
the dark blue of night spills across
the ocean floor
while inside a planetarium
a little girl sleeps

There are multiple other activities you can center around paint chips: working with metaphors and similes, or simply meditating on a color and its mood.

Activity 4: Found Poetry


Just as it sounds, this poetry activity involves students “finding” poems — often in places they least expect it. Have students choose words or phrases from texts around the room or cut out words from magazines or even maps. Students can also listen to a podcast, TED talk, or song and write down some of the words they hear.

Once students collect a certain amount of words (I recommend 15 or 20), ask them to use these words to form a poem. It is helpful to have students write these words on slips of paper that they can rearrange in whatever order they’d prefer.

It is up to you if you’d like the students to add their own words to the poem, or restrict the poem to only the words that were found. With either method, this activity invites students to look at the pedestrian world through a poetic lens while freely expressing their creativity.

 After trying one or all of these activities, students will have some wonderful work to celebrate. Once finished, you can create an anthology of student work, or have students assemble collections of their own that they can share with the class. You can also direct students who are particularly motivated toward writing contests to submit their finished works. Poetry is sometimes a difficult topic to breach, but these fun and creative activities prove that with a little inspiration, anyone can become a poet. 

Tess Patalano is a writer at Reedsy, a marketplace giving authors and publishers access to free educational content on self-publishing, along with an avenue to hire talented developmental editors. She has taught writing to students in South Korea, Hawaii, and China.

Review of Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Review of Dream Work by Mary Oliver

I recently read the Kindle edition of this book through Prime. I read it twice, first on my vintage Kindle, then on the Kindle app on my vintage iPad. I make the font large so I don’t have to wear my reading glasses; on the iPad the formatting stayed truer.

I especially love Oliver’s nature poems, and there are many here—Wild Geese, which is one of her most famous, and lots of others which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Actually, whatever the poem is really about, she seems to put some flora and fauna in it.

At first I wasn’t sure the poems resonated with me, but as I progressed, I liked them better and better. I suspect that I will love them all better through repeated readings.Dream Work

The book is divided into two sections, and I haven’t figured out why yet.

One sinister poem titled “Rage” seems to refer to a father raping a child. It felt autobiographical, so I googled “Was Mary Oliver raped?” and found out she indeed was raped as a child. Another poem, “A Visitor,” describes a visit from a father who was once feared and avoided, but who is now “pathetic and hollow. . . I saw what love might have done/ had we loved in time.”


Another poem references Beethoven; another, Schumann. Several reference native Americans.

“Members of the Tribe” seems to be about suicide.

My favorite poem in the book is “Banyan,” a fantasy poem:

Something screamed
from the fringes of the swamp.
It was Banyan,
the old merchant.

It was the hundred-legged
tree, walking again.

The cattle egrets
flew out into the sunlight
like so many pieces of white ribbon.

The watersnakes slipped down the banks
like green hooks and floated away.

Banyan groaned.
A knee in the east corner buckled,

a gray shin rose, and the root,
wet and hairy,
sank back in, a little closer.

Then a voice like a howling wind deep in the leaves said:
I’ll tell you a story
about a seed.

About a seed flying into a tree and eating it
little by little.
About a small tree that becomes a huge tree
and wants to travel.

Listen, said the voice.
This is your dream.

I’m only stopping here for a little while.
Don’t be afraid.

I love “the hundred-legged tree” and the description of the egrets flying and the watersnakes slipping down like green hooks. Why is the banyan a merchant?

I like this book, but not as much as Devotions.

Want to learn more about Mary Oliver? Read Maria Shriver’s interview.

Creative Juice #165

Creative Juice #165

A dozen neat things to enjoy this weekend.

Creative Juice #164

Creative Juice #164

Inspiring works of creative genius.

Guest Post–Literary Magazines And Journals: Your FAQs Answered by Writer’s Relief


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.


If you’re writing poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, or essays, then literary magazines are your best friends. But at first glance, the world of literary journals can be intimidating. The submission guidelines often vary from one publication to another, and each journal seems to have its own special etiquette that you must try to decipher. And then there are the oodles of rejection letters that writers receive over the course of their careers. The entire process can be quite overwhelming. You probably have a lot of questions.

Fortunately, the submission strategy experts here at Writer’s Relief have a lot of answers. We know the ins and outs of getting poems, short stories, and personal essays published in literary magazines. And guess what? It may not be as difficult to get published as you think!

FAQs About Literary Journals And Magazines

Q.: What Is The Definition A Literary Magazine (AKA Literary Journal)?

A.: A literary magazine is a publication of collected works by various authors. Writers can submit their writing to editors of literary journals at different times during the year depending on reading dates. Submissions can be unsolicited (not requested) or solicited. Literary magazines feature poems, short stories, and essays that are written by new, unpublished writers, or by well-known authors. Each literary magazine has its own style and focus.

The number of people who staff a literary magazine can run from a single editor working alone from home, right up to a large team of volunteer readers and paid staffers who unite to put out multiple issues of a magazine every year.

Writer’s Relief maintains a HUGE database of literary magazines. The database is updated daily, based on not only the information that is available to the public, but also on insider information gleaned from managing our clients’ submissions to various editors. Tracking many years’ worth of personal comments on submissions means that we know what editors like, and we make it our goal to connect writers with the editors who will fall in love with their work.

Q.: How Much Do Literary Magazines And Journals Pay Creative Writers?

A.: Many new writers get excited about literary magazines because it’s heartening to know there’s a community eager to publish new poems, stories, and essays. But hot on the heels of a writer’s interest in a literary magazine is this common question: How much do literary magazines and journals pay?

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that a writer will be able to make any significant income by publishing in literary journals. Literary magazines are rarely able to pay creative writers for the privilege of publishing an accepted poem, story, or essay. And the literary journals that do pay writers are rarely able to pay much beyond a token honorarium.

Editors aren’t being stingy: Budgets at many literary journals are very tight. To stay afloat fiscally, literary magazines often rely on grants, predetermined budgets set by academic committees, or small subscription bases. Some literary magazines host writing contests to generate income. Many editors wish they could pay their writers for the right to publish accepted submissions. Learn more about the reasons literary magazine editors rarely pay writers money.

That said, there are some literary magazines that do pay writers for the right to publish poems, short stories, essays, and the like. Here are a few places to start your research to find literary journals that pay:

How To Find Literary Journals That Pay Writers

22 Literary Journals That Pay To Publish Poems–And Why Others Don’t | Writer’s Relief

Q.: What Are The Benefits And Advantages Of Getting Published In Literary Magazines?

A.: Most writers submit their poems, stories, and essays to literary journals in order to gain exposure for their writing. Getting published in a literary magazine is one of the best ways to build a strong reputation as a creative writer. Literary agents and publishers often read literary journals to discover exciting new voices. In the publishing industry and in academia, publishing in literary journals is a rite of passage that is, in some circles, an expected first step in a writer’s career.

Need more convincing? Read this: 33 Great Reasons Why You Should Submit Your Writing To Literary Magazines | Writer’s Relief.

Q.: What Is The Difference Between A Literary Journal And A Literary Magazine?

A.: Most of the time, the definition of a literary journal is synonymous with the definition of a literary magazine. At one point in the history of publishing, the pages of a literary journal may have been bound differently, and presented in a slightly different physical format, than a literary magazine. But these days, the distinction between a literary magazine and a literary journal has largely disappeared (especially now that so many literary journals and magazines have converted to digital format).

Q.: What Genres Are Published In Literary Journals?

A.: The majority of literary journals publish a mix of short stories, personal essays (nonfiction), and poetry. They might also include some visual artwork, interviews with authors, and book reviews.

Though many literary magazines accept a wide array of genres, some specialize in one genre. For example: One literary journal might exclusively publish flash fiction, while another might be dedicated to publishing “long” short stories.

Literary magazines can also be organized by theme (love, nature, food, etc.) or by authorial interests/ethnicity/place of residence.

Read more: 6 Surprising Things Literary Journal Editors Love To Publish.

Q.: What Style Of Writing Is Most Common In Literary Magazines?

A.: These days, many editors of literary journals are interested in publishing creative writing that has a literary sensibility. That means, the majority of literary magazines are interested in writing that’s a little challenging, thoughtful, experimental, intelligent, and emotional—writing that might not find a home at a commercial publishing house. However, you will also find literary magazines that specialize in genres that are historically considered commercial: detective stories, romances, etc.

Learn more about the difference between literary and commercial writing.

Q.: What Does A Literary Magazine Editor Actually Do For Writers?

A.: Editors at literary journals read through submissions, facilitate conversations about manuscripts and publishing, make decisions about which works to accept, write up editorial requests and assist authors with revisions, proofread and format, and much more.

Q.: Which Is Better For A Writer’s Career: Publishing In Digital Literary Journals Or Printed Literary Magazines?

A.: When literary magazines began moving into digital format, some writers resisted the change—in part because of the nostalgic draw of holding a physical copy of a printed publication. But now, online literary publications are as reputable, profitable, and career-building as print literary journals—if not more.

Publishing in online literary magazines offers benefits that publishing in print sometimes cannot:

  • Online archives have a longer shelf life than printed periodicals.
  • Online literary magazines are easily accessed by (and discovered by) readers as well as publishing professionals.
  • Online literary journals nominate for many of the same literary awards as print publications.
  • Online literary publications often cultivate larger readerships than print magazines thanks in part to simpler (and cheaper) distribution.
  • Readers (and writers) find it easier to share online literary magazines, increasing the likelihood of a work going viral.

Focusing your publishing efforts on building your reputation, as opposed to pursuing a specific publishing medium, is a stronger, smarter approach to establishing a successful writing career.

Q.: How Can You Determine The Reputation Of A Literary Journal?

A.: To evaluate the reputation of a literary magazine, there are a few criteria you can consider:

  • Professional credentials of the editors and the writers who are published in the magazine
  • Quality of production (design, proofreading, etc.)
  • The magazine’s ability to nominate its writers for major literary awards
  • The longevity of the magazine (how long it has been around can give a hint as to how likely it is that it will keep going)
  • Whether or not you personally see value in the content (because your opinion matters!)

Here at Writer’s Relief, we recommend that writers submit their work to a range of literary magazines, which means focusing not only on top-tier, famous literary publications, but also on reputable mid-size and even small periodicals. There are many advantages of this approach: So-called small publications can have a big effect on a writer’s career by way of exposure, award nominations, networking opportunities, and more.

Q.: Which Literary Magazines Publish Submissions By New And Unpublished Writers?

A.: Very few editors of literary magazines would turn away talented new writers just because they’d never been published. That said, some literary journals do tend to give priority to established writers. However, there are many others who welcome writing submissions from unpublished writers. In fact, many editors consider it a badge of honor to discover the next great writer in their pile of unsolicited submissions.

Here’s where you can learn more about how new writers can get published in literary journals.

Q.: What Formatting Rules Should Writers Know For Submitting To Literary Magazines?

A.: If the submissions guidelines page of a literary journal’s website doesn’t specify a format for submitted work, writers would do well to follow customary publishing industry protocol. Contact information in the upper left corner, standard fonts and margins, and headers that include name and page number will rarely rub editors the wrong way.

Most editors at literary magazines also like to read a cover letter or at least an author bio from writers who are hoping to secure publication.

Q.: What Are The Most Common Mistakes That Creative Writers Make When Submitting To Literary Magazines?

A.: If you’re a new writer trying to get published in a literary journal, here are the common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid!

Skipping the cover letter. If a literary magazine editor indicates that he or she wants to read a cover letter, seize the opportunity to make a personal connection.

Ditching the author bio. Some writers neglect to include an author bio in order to make a statement that only the written manuscript should matter in the editor’s decision to publish or not to publish. Other writers skip the author bio simply because they have a lack of publishing credits. Whatever your opinion, know this: If a literary magazine editor asks you for a bio, then you skip it at your own risk.

Clicking “send” too quickly. Never hit the “send” button until you’re sure your submission is thoroughly proofread. You may even want to consider working with a professional proofreader when submitting your creative writing to literary magazines and journals.

Narrowing the market. Many writers get hung up on the notion that big-name literary magazines are the only worthwhile publications. Unfortunately, this mind-set often leads to limited publishing opportunities, especially for new writers.

Submitting without researching first. Some writers send their creative writing to any and every literary magazine under the sun. This is not a policy we endorse. If you get a reputation for submission spam, you could find yourself blacklisted.

Ignoring submission guidelines. Editors have told us that their number one pet peeve is submissions that totally ignore the submission guidelines. That said, many editors are flexible and may accept valid explanations for ignoring minor elements of submission guidelines.

And the number one, most common mistake writers make when submitting to literary magazines…

Not submitting frequently enough.

If you can’t find a home for a truly good piece of writing, chances are you’ve given up too quickly. There are thousands of literary magazines out there. It can take time to find the right one. But with time constraints, research frustrations, query/cover letter etiquette questions, and countless insecurities, it’s a wonder some writers get any submissions out the door at all!

OctPoWriMo Day 31


I participated in two challenges this month, OctPoWriMo and Inktober. To make it easier on myself, I planned to write a new poem on odd-numbered days and make a drawing on even-numbered days.

I managed to write 13 poems this month, a little short of the 16 I had hoped for. One poem never got off the ground (maybe it will fly yet), and two days I just didn’t get the time. But I so appreciate the work of the volunteers who came up with the challenge prompts and encouraged all the participants. There are some great new poems out there!

Today’s prompt is peaceThe prompt post includes a video of John Lennon’s song Imagine.

I am a huge Beatles fan and I love almost everything Lennon ever wrote. Except the lyrics to Imagine. My poem is sort of a rebuttal of the song.


believe there is a heaven

this world is closer to hell than I ever want to be
full of chaos and hate, murder and destruction
a polluted ecosystem wreaking revenge
with water and fire and wind and ice

if it weren’t for heaven, why would I endure
the pain, the scorn that is my lot,
the hardship, the illness, the loneliness
death would be the logical escape

but the truth is: we have a loving God
Who created the world in perfection
Who redeemed it with His own blood
Who longs to be our Companion forever

the One who determined the laws of nature
holds me safe in His arms
His Word comforts and consoles me
and that is where I find peace