For starters, you probably can get a decent idea of what a single editor is interested in by examining their history of commissioned works. This might not work for a team of editors, but most small presses operate on teams of one anyway. You'll be able to glean clues about the styles they like as well as their main concerns, so you can use empathy and imagination to consider whether yours would fit with this or perhaps provide a refreshing change. Either is good!
It occurred to me that something else which might help potential submitters was an account of what we do after the submissions deadline. It might be useful for you to imagine what your poems will have to face after you've pressed 'send', and you might also find it reassuring that your poems are in hopeful, encouraging hands. We want to choose your poems, and we open every email hoping that this will be a 'MAYBE YES'. This might also explain why we're sometimes late in responding to submissions...
What We Do When We Process Anthology Submissions (from my point of view)
- I read all of the poems within a submission twice, and then label it 'NO' or 'MAYBE YES', which feels as alarmingly harsh to do as it sounds. But! At least the labels aren't 'AWFUL' and 'OBJECTIVELY GREAT' – all we're doing at this stage is deciding which of the poems might be the kind of thing we like and which might be suitable for the brief, and which are not so much the kind of thing we like or not really suitable for the brief. This is not a statement about quality, and I know that we have turned down lots of great poems just because they didn't quite fit our vision for the anthology or because they just didn't click with us. About a third to a half of the overall submissions usually end up on this longlist.
- I read all the poems on the 'MAYBE YES' longlist again and create a shortlist, this time noting down my thoughts on the poems. By this point, I'll have a better idea of what the book is going to look like, so it's slightly easier to decide if a poem will be right for it. I start reading the submissions with a very open mind, but by the shortlisting stage I'll have formed some ideas about what areas the book will focus on and the general feel of the book. I'll also be thinking hard about whether this poem grabs me and has stayed with me since I last read it. My shortlist usually contains 60-70 poets.
- I meet up with Rachel Piercey, my brilliant co-editor, and we compare our shortlists. We'll discuss each of the poems and how we feel they could work in the book. Like Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry deciding whether to expel Kate or Richard on The Great British Bake-Off, our discussion can become heated. I like to keep our anthologies fairly slim, so we aim to select around 30 poets for each book.
on our Submissions page. We're also currently looking for poems about 'Slow Things', and we'll be announcing still more calls for submissions over the next few months. Sign up to our newsletter so you don't miss out.
* If you want to hear me talk more about poetry pamphlets and see some of our pamphlet poets in action, book a free ticket for our Special Edition event at the Poetry Library now: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/the-emma-press-pamphlet-poets-86755