I Don’t Know What to Do with my Poetry.
I’ve been writing poetry for a really long time.
Okay, I’ve been writing poetry since the seventh grade. So since 2003-ish. While some older folks might consider anything after Watergate to be recent news, these 14 years represent a considerable portion of my life.
And I’ve had absolutely no idea what to do with my words.
I started writing poetry as a personal catharsis, and, because high school me was driven to help people who probably didn’t want my help, I wanted to share my writing with the world.
Shout-out to Janet Reid, a poet at the first poetry hub I hung around, Poetic Constellations, who actually thought it was a good idea to teach 13-year old me how to format an ebook for self-publication through Lulu, which came out halfway through my Freshman year. Another shout-out to my mentor, Carol Weaver, who promptly decided to order half a hundred copies of this book, and held my first book signing in the middle school library. I hand-sold about 100 copies of my book that day. I felt pretty damn proud.
That was the day I crested in my writing life.
Every year or so after that, I self-published another book. I might have sold two or three copies of each, and that’s being generous. I know my Great-Grandma Mildred has a copy of my second book, and I gave my high-school friend Becca a copy of my fifth book. I have a copy of my sixth book.
Other than that first book, I’m pretty sure those are the only extant copies of my writing.
I Don’t Know What to Do with my Poetry.
Yeah. I’m repeating the headline, because it bears repeating.
After a while, I left Poetic Constellations, and settled onto AllPoetry, which gave me more chances to write and more chances to read and critique the work of others. And while I was fairly prolific there, sharing my work didn’t do anything.
Sure, I got views, and I got comments, but other than the people who sat around and happened to find my stuff, nobody was finding my work.
I look at myself and I look at some of my favorite poets who are still living today — Sierra DeMulder, Olivia Gatwood, and Taylor Mali, just to name a few, and I’m still confused.
It seems like the formula for developing a platform as a poet is to:
- Find a place that does slam poetry (Good luck, if you live somewhere like Pinon Hills, California, or Armpit, Mississippi),
- record videos of yourself,
- pray to God that something goes viral,
- get speaking engagements,
- have a small press print a collection of yours,
This seems to just prove my point that life would have been a lot better if I had been born in raised in New York City like I dreamed, but I digress.
Sharing in the Post-Allpoetry Age
I spent a good decade of my poetry career, if career you can call it, using AllPoetry. For a number of reasons, I no longer use the site. It is no longer the site it was.
Now that I’m trying to put myself out there as a writer — not only as a YA fiction writer or a creative nonfiction writer, but as a poet, I’m struggling to decide what to do with my poetry.
Where should I put it? Should I put it on my website along with all of my fiction information? Should I create a separate subdomain for just my poetry? I’ve had a little bit of traction on Instagram, but not like some of the other poets on the site. Should I try using Medium, maybe creating my own publication? I haven’t had any luck with
Or maybe there isn’t a market for this. That might just be the horrible truth that I have to face — that nobody wants to read the confessional poetry, delusions of grandeur, and scorned love stories of a 26 year-old quarter life crisis poetry. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence against this, people who have responded well to my poetry — and when I look at sites like Button Poetry, I see that there is definitely an interest.
The question is how do I do that?
This isn’t about self-pity, or crying “Woe is me, I’m not famous!!!”
This is me, saying “I am here. I want to be there. I have no idea how to get there.”
Zach Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne.” He acts, sings poorly, and writes poetry, plays, and young adult fiction.
He’s an assistant at Ninja Writers, where he helps new writers find their voice and their tribe. He was the query intern for Pam Victorio at D4EO, and his novel Somehow You’re Sitting Here was selected for Nevada SCBWI’s 2015–16 Mentor Program. He lives in Reno.