The Cold Hard Facts

Getting Published – The Cold Hard Facts

Here’s the coldest, hardest fact of all to start with: unless you are the acknowledged world expert on some highly focused subject you have only a miniscule chance of getting published in the ordinary course of events.

Reading a couple of blogs earlier this morning I learned that one publisher chooses
approximately 1 in 1100 of the pieces of submitted work each year. They were poetry publishers so perhaps things are better in the prose market? The second comment I read was from a publisher of ‘hobby and interest’ articles; they reckon they publish about 1 in 1500 submissions.

Of course, we all know there are lies, damned lies and statistics and the rates quoted above are only statistics. If you are really determined to get published you have to figure out how to improve the statistics.

There are two ways you can do this: you can put out more work or you can target your submissions more accurately. Putting out more work doesn’t actually change the statistics it just produces the same result more frequently. In the first case mentioned above if you lift your submissions from 1 a day to 2 a day you should get more frequent publication.
It’s plain, though, that you’re still unlikely to make a living even with the improvement. Perhaps targeting more accurately is the way to go.

There are two main ways to improve targeting. The first is simple: read the label. If a magazine says it’s looking for articles on axemanship you aren’t likely to get anywhere fast by submitting a poem inspired by a portrait of the Mona Lisa.- or even a portrait of George Washington for that matter. The second is a bit more complicated: you have to research your potential market more thoroughly. Where is the magazine published? Who does it say its target audience is? What competition does it struggle with? What do outside commentators and/or other writers say about the journal, its work and its performance in the marketplace?

If it is important to do all this work you only want to have to do it as infrequently as possible: in an ideal world once is enough. To ensure you’ve done your homework and you don’t have to repeat it unnecessarily the next major task is thorough and accessible record keeping. There are various ways in which you can achieve this, ranging from notes on the back of envelopes to recorded recitations of the facts you’ve gathered on YouTube. As usual, the best way is somewhere between to extremes.

If records are to be available for consultation they need to be reasonably permanent. On paper or computer would seem to be the best bets. (Actually the computer alone is clearly the best but not every poet starving in his or her garret can afford a computer of their own. Before you start building your records take a bit of time nutting out the essential things you want to record and the best way to record them. Just as a simple example, if you think some markets are better prospects than others you want to highlight this fact.
You might choose to record best markets in gold and least likely ones in grey, or you might give ach market an identifying number indicating the group you assess them as falling into. It doesn’t matter whether you assess 1 as best and 10 as least likely or vice versa as long as you remember which way your scale runs. You can then decide on the different characteristics you want to record and how you’re going to manage each of them.

I hear groans and mutters of disbelief from those disinclined to put in this preliminary work but I assure from experience that it’s the only way to go. You are. In fact, a one man business and you have to operate as a business. The difference between you, a writer, and most other businesses is that you are all the departments in one person. General manager, production line worker, marketer, accountant, advertising manager, salesman and sales manager and dispatcher – you’re all of them rolled into one.

For many writers this will all be too much; they will prefer the way they are rather than the way they could be. That’s OK. The more of those who claim to be poets who choose to stay in the dark cellars of ‘unknown’, the greater the opportunity for the rest of us to improve on the basic ‘1 in 1,000’ or worse.


Queensland old fossils

Queensland’s old fossils


No, this isn’t a story about retirement life on the Gold Coast!

In the past few days the discovery of a number of fossils in Brisbane that have been dated as about 50 million years old has been reported.. This dating puts them as originating about halfway through the life of the Australian landmass which began to drift away from Antarctica around 95 million years ago. To give an indication of the major changes that resulted from that incident, these latest discoveries date from a period when the whole of northeast Queensland was a tropical rainforest.

 Scientists have hailed the discovery of rare fossils at a work site in Brisbane’s north as a potential world-first. “They fill part of the missing gap in the scientific knowledge about how animals evolved after a massive extinction that killed off the majority of animals on the planet.

 The fossils were found 15 metres below ground in an oil shale layer. They are more modern than the dinosaurs that became extinct about 65 million years ago and have some characteristics similar to those found in modern animals.

Perhaps the most exciting find is that of part of a crocodile. Compared to the fossil of a modern-day crocodile, you are looking at something of the order of five metres long.A leading scientist said the crocodile found at Geebung was not the same as today’s freshwater or saltwater crocodiles.

As well as the crocodile, the thigh bone of what is believed to be Australia’s oldest frog was found and a fossilised fish with characteristics similar to a present day perch.

Arrangements are already being discussed as to how to best make these finds accessible to visitors and interested non-scientists.


St George and Chivalry

St George and English/British Chivalry
In1348, George was adopted by Edward 111 as principal Patron of his new order of chivalry, the Knights of the Garter. It is possible that the Order took its name from a pendant badge or jewel traditionally shown in depictions of Saint George. The insignia of the Order include a Collar and Badge Appendant, known as the ‘George’. The badge is of gold and includes a richly enameled representation of St George on horseback slaying the dragon. A second medal, the Lesser George, also depicting George and the dragon, is worn attached to the Sash. The objective of the Order was probably to focus the efforts of England on further Crusades to reconquer the Holy Land.
The earliest records of the Order of the Garter were destroyed by fire, but it is believed that either in 1334 or 1348 Edward proclaimed St George Patron Saint of England. Although the cult of St George was suppressed in England at the Reformation, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, completed in stages from 1483 to 1528, has remained the official seat of the Order, where its chapters assemble. The Monarch and the Prince of Wales are always Members, together with 24 others and 26 Knights or Ladies Companion.
Much later, in 1818, the Prince Regent, later George IV, created the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George to recognize exemplary service in the diplomatic field. The Order was founded to commemorate the British protectorate of the Ionian islands and Malta, which had begun in 1814. Originally membership was limited to inhabitants of the islands and to Britons who had served locally. In 1879 membership was widened to include foreigners who had performed distinguished service in all Commonwealth countries… The medal of the Order shows St George and the Dragon on one side and St Michael confronting the Devil on the other with the inscription, ‘auspicium melioris aevi’ (‘augury of a better age’).

St George: Literary connections

Literary Connections
The fame of St George throughout Europe was greatly increased by the publication of the Legenda Sanctorum (Readings on the Saints), later known as the Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend) by James of Voragine in 1265. The Legend is not explicitly about St George but to a whole collection of stories, which were said to be worth their weight in gold.
It was The Golden Legend which made the legend of George and the Dragon known and famous. The legend may have been particularly well received in England because of a similar legend in Anglo-Saxon literature.
The origin of the legend is uncertain. It first appears in the late 6th century and may have been an oblique reference to the persecution by Diocletian, who was sometimes referred to as ‘the dragon’ in ancient texts. It may also be a Christianized version of the Greek legend of Perseus, who was said to have rescued the virgin Andromeda from a sea monster at Arsuf or Jaffa), where the cult of St George grew up around the site of his supposed tomb.
Saint George is a leading character in one of the greatest poems in the English language, Spencer’s Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). St George appears in Book 1 as the Redcrosse (sic) Knight of Holiness, protector of the Virgin. In this guise he may also be seen as the Anglican Church upholding the monarchy of Elizabeth1:
But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge we wore
And dead (as living) ever he adored.
The legend of St George and the dragon took on a new lease of life during the Counter Reformation. The discoveries in Africa, India and the Americas, which maps had previously shown as populated by dragons, presented vast new fields for Church missionary work and St George was frequently used as an example of danger faced and overcome for the good of the Church. John Bunyan (1628-88), used the story of George and the Dragon. as the basis for the fight between Christian and Apollyon in Pilgrim’s progress.

St George

St George

St George is the patron saint of England and among the most famous of Christian figures, yet, he is also one of the saints about whom little or nothing certain is known. The first known possible record of him is in about 320 AD. Eusebius of Caesarea tells of a soldier of noble birth who was put to death under Diocletian at Nicomedia on 23 April, 303, but makes no mention of his name, his country or his place of burial.

According to the fifth Century apocryphal ‘Acts of St George’ still in use in various versions in Orthodox churches, George was a tribune in the Roman army who was beheaded by the Emperor Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. George rapidly became venerated throughout Christendom as an example of bravery in defence of the poor and the defenceless and of the Christian faith.

George was probably first recognised in England by Arculpus and Adamnan in the early eighth century. The Acts of St George, which recounted his visits to Caerleon and Glastonbury while on service in England, were translated into Anglo-Saxon, though the dates of these visits, if they were actually made, are not certain.
Because of his widespread following and the many miracles attributed to him, George became universally recognized as a saint sometime after 900. A church at Doncaster was dedicated to St George in 1061.
George was adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. Many similar appearances were reported to European countries by Crusaders who had heard them from Byzantine troops. When Richard 1 was campaigning in Palestine in 1191-92 he put the army under the protection of St George.
George’s military feats seem to have been known to Shakespeare given the famous lines from Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1, l. 31 at the onset of the battle of Agincourt:
‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George!’
The banner of St George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the overshirt uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard 1, and later became first the flag of England and subsequently the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.
400 words



You are ‘a little world made cunningly’*
entire and self-sufficient. You live,
mostly, in ways of your own devising,
self-contained, and self-satisfied,
and if anything disturbs the even tenor
of your ways you blame everyone but

* Thanks to John Donne for the loan

A result of neighbour spotting.

Where’s poetry headed?

Today’s poetry is in danger of taking all poetry into oblivion.

It seems to be following modern music into a world where any form will do. In the case of music this produces discordant cacophony but if that’s what today’s listeners want, that’s what they’ll get.

Words have a musical element too, but they don’t rely solely on that to convey their meaning. Words have meanings and there are limits to those meanings. Further, words only have meanings within certain boundaries of expression. Using words in a format that makes sounds but no sense doesn’t communicate in any worthwhile way.

The old way of writing where the format was as important as, sometimes even more important than, the content is, thankfully, dead. But that doesn’t mean anything goes.
Nor does it mean that poets can rely solely on the sounds their work produces; that would simply be producing music using a different instrument.

At the least, poetry must convey a message that requires understanding of the meanings of the words used, even if those words are used at the same time to convey musical images. No meaning, no poetry is, I suggest, the basic measure of whether what’s produced is poetry or not.

I also believe that publishers who produce all sorts of documents should, as a minimum, present poems that have a discernible meaning (especially, perhaps, the possibility of multiple meanings) if they wish to be listed as publishers of poetry. This may unclutter the marketplace a bit, with the self-important ‘literary’ journals recognised for what they mostly are, consigned to a revised category of ‘vain’ or ‘vanity’ publishing.

Worthwhile poets’ organisations – clubs, societies, groups – have an important role in getting poetry back to a position where it is read and respected, not just by those initiated into the mystic rites of poetising but by the larger part of society.

Poetry belongs to the world; it should return to a form in which the world can accept and enjoy it.