09 September 2022
Seven top tips from poet Sophia Blackwell, author of the Writers' & Artists' Poetry Writers' Handbook
When you share your poetry online or send it to a magazine, it can sometimes feel like firing it into a black hole. However, online, audio, and visual channels are a great place for poetry to flourish and be shared, if you get your approach and timing right. Sometimes I see my own poetry surfacing on Twitter, or a photo of a page in one of my collections being shared, which is one way of finding out what your ‘greatest hits’ are – but it is quite rare. Related to that, my first tip might be unconventional, but:
1. Share other people’s poetry as well as your own
It helps for your audience to see that you have interests outside your own work, and that you read poems by others – who may be more likely to pass your poetry on to their networks in return. If you like something, tell the poet!
2. Put some time into finding your audience
If you are writing for a particular community, ensure you find out where they are – looking around relevant Twitter and Instagram accounts will be a good starting point. If your audience is online, use a WordPress or Wix blog and use hashtags when sharing your poems on social channels. Offline, try local newspapers or literary festivals, or search for specific anthologies or zines that cover themes relevant to your poetry. If you have a book or pamphlet, display or sell it at independent book fairs or poetry festivals, and ideally team it with an event where you can perform your poetry live.
3. Be flexible about formats
Consider a home-made pamphlet or zine, which will also allow you to get creative with formats and images. Poetry as video and audio files can be a great option, and shares on YouTube and Spotify are a brilliant way of reaching new audiences.
4. Focus on topical subjects and links
Be careful when considering a poem about a national tragedy – some of them, like William Topaz McGonagall’s amazingly bad poem about the collapse of the Tay Bridge, have gone historically viral for the wrong reasons. However, some poems strike a chord either because they are about something specific, or about something general that can comfort or strike a chord with people at a time of heightened emotion. If something is genuine and felt deeply, that might translate well online.
5. Make sure you are happy with what you are sharing and where
Online sharing in open forums (not closed groups or workshops) might count as publication, so ensure that the poem has already found a home with a publisher or that you are happy with online potentially being its only form of publication.
6. Perform it!
This has always been my favourite way of getting my poems out there, not least because you can reach genuinely different audiences and the range of people you can meet is as diverse as the venues you might perform in.
7. Keep it simple
Keep your shared poems short – if shared as visuals, they need to be digestible in a one-page Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter image. Remember that people’s attention spans online are shorter than they might be elsewhere. Think about Poems on the Underground – you are aiming for a similar length to a Tube ad. Choose poems that have a sense of immediacy, that will really grab the reader, and that may involve humour or demonstrate mastery of a tricky form. If you have something long, subtle, and complex, save it for your magazine and publisher submissions.
Finally, remember, no matter how good your images and filters are, or the quality of your performance is, the words are the most important thing. If something is off, you will not get the exposure or traction you need, so if you are not sure about a poem, try and workshop it or leave it to cool off for a couple of weeks before putting it online. If the temptation to get it out there immediately is strong, try an open mic event – you will make memories and maybe get some ideas for how the piece might be improved, giving you the confidence to share it more widely. Good luck!
Writers' & Artists' Poetry Writers' Handbook: A Practical Guide to Getting Your Poetry Noticed, Published and Performed by Sophia Blackwell is published by Bloomsbury Yearbooks 15th Sep-tember (Paperback: £20)
Sophia's latest collection is The Other Woman (Burning Eye Books, 2018)
Looking for ideas for your poetry? Read multi-award-winning poet Rob Miles' advice on how to start a poem.