It’s a hard cold world as a poet out there. Just kidding. Kind of.
In all seriousness however, it’s easy to feel lost in the world of literary journals, there seem to be simultaneously too many and too few. Here is a quick tip I recommend from the last year or so of actively hunting down and submitting work to literary journals: the first and most important thing about any journal is whether or not they publish work similar to yours. I used to naively assume that as long as you wrote good stuff you could get published: this is not the case.
Journals publish according to their tastes and generally have a particular aesthetic, and whether or not your work matches with that aesthetic is the most important factor to getting published. (Though you do, of course, need to write decent stuff). I’ve spent a lot of time sorting through lists of literary journals and filtering out dozens of good, active ones simply because my work didn’t fit their style. Honing in on the journals that take poetry like mine has really assisted me in getting published.
Having said, here are six lists to help you get up and running. I recommend slowly going through these and pulling out a list of targeted ones that match your work in some way, then applying to those. Filter out the rest as noise.
1. The CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) has the second-largest and most reputable database online and allows you to filter for your genre. Fantastic.
2. Litline, a website for the independent literary community, has a list of 240 literary journals
3. Redactions has a list of 344 literary journals, choosing only literary journals with “Review” in their title. Fair warning; a percentage of these links are no longer active. However, I’ve found it a good resource, particularly because the journals that style themselves as “reviews” often take their work and their contributors’ work more seriously. I recommend parsing through it alphabetically.
4. Duotrope’s Digest lists 5000 literary publications. Two downsides: access costs $5/month (they used to be free but recently switched), and I have found the selection to be a huge mishmash with more misses than hits. Still, definitely a good option if you run out of resources from the previous lists.
5. Newpages offers a PDF guide to literary magazines (updated yearly) and a list of reviews of literary journals
6. John Selby has a large list of experimental poetry/art magazines all over the world
It takes work to get published. It can and should take you a lot of time to look through some of these lists and find journals that you love to read and which might like your work. But the payoff? Priceless 🙂 Go forth and conquer.