Contributor Guidelines for PoetsUnlimited

Jun 30, 2016 · 9 min read

The PoetsUnlimited publication on Medium was an eclectic mix of poetry from contributors around the world with diverse perspectives and styles.
For six years, it was Medium’s most popular, and most active, poetry-only publication. This document left here for entertainment, re-use and evolution for anyone who wishes to borrow from it.

The publication has ceased operation. Thanks to all who contributed and who read our humble feed.

The TWELVE points below helped contributors learn how to join and write for us. Each requirement came from a challenge along the way and sought to make the publication better and keep readers engaged.
( There was a TL;DR version for quick readers too.)

  1. Become a Contributing Poet – The first step is not submitting poems, but rather getting you added as an official poet-contributor. THEN you can submit poems to be considered for publication.
    To be added as a contributor is pretty easy. You just need to
    a) read the points below,
    b) know your Medium ID, and
    have a poem up on your Medium account that follows the style requirements in items 3–11 below.
    The contributor join-up period is closed just now, but when open requires you to read this whole page, then use a form we would link right here to request to join.
    There, you’d point us to a sample poem you have published/shared on your Medium feed to be considered. The open contributor-application period closes quickly, so careful not to miss it.

    There are no judgements on your skill or approach, as long as you meet the style and format rules outline here. Contributors submit poems at will, and they’ll be published to the world if they meet these style rules here.
    Did you enjoy someone’s poem? Click the clapping-hands below the poem to show support.
    Tweet, blog or even write a Medium post about the ones you like. It all helps to bring readers out to see all the great work on PoetsUnlimited.
  2. How to contribute poems? Once you are accepted as a contributor to the publication it’s just a couple of clicks to ‘submit’ your poem.
    NOTE that only free-to-view poems are published. Member-only ‘pay-to-view’ poetry isn’t published on PoetsUnlimited to keep the publication readable by all.
    Select “New Story” at the top right of the Medium page, and start writing. Choose “Publish” when you’re finished — that only means your poem is then published on your personal feed only, though it is viewable by the world.
    NEXT, you need to submit it PoetsUnlimited. Click the “…” button near the bottom right while your poem is on-screen — that will let you submit to the PoetsUnlimited publication. (More details) An editor will then approve it if it meets these guidelines.
    Usually poems get shared with the world within about 24hrs of submitting, if they meet our guidelines.
    We don’t ignore any submissions — you’ll either be published or get a message about why not. If neither happens, you’re probably in the queue for a day or two during a busy period.
  3. Include a picture please. Medium’s presentation format is very visual, Try to find a pic that works with your piece, it becomes the background of the title on the PU landing page, and helps the publication be visually attractive. That’s better for building a following of readers.
    It can be fun too! A pic that works for you need not illustrate your content — maybe it just evokes the mood or theme behind your words.
    I like the site under their “FREE” tab you’ll find free-use, open-rights pictures from good photographers, but there are many other sites too. We leave it to you to ensure you can legally use the picture you choose.
    You can go picture-free if you wish your poem to be text-only, however…
    If you do not add a picture, a coloured rectangle will be added to the end of your poem just to make the title page work properly. (That colour appears behind your title.)
    Feel free to change it into an image of your choice if you wish. (But please don’t delete it and go back to no-image status as it breaks the front page, and we’ll have to remove your poem).
    Also — Publishing may be a bit slower for pieces without images to avoid too many of them on the front page at once.
    [See Medium’s help-page on how to put images into a poem]
  4. Pictures — The technical details, and limitations:
    - Pics need to be at least 300 pixels wide and 200
    pixels tall for Medium to use them properly. Otherwise our front page doesn’t look nice.
    Don’t distort/stretch your picture
    - No animated GIFs please —they’re not visually pleasant on the front page.
    - Avoid Videos —
    Privacy settings for some users makes a YouTube video show up as an awkward do-not-track policy message in some browsers. Add your video (or soundcloud embed) as a link rather than embedding it. How about a reading in your voice? Fun for your readers . Linking to it is better than embedding to ensure the presentation looks nice.
    No images with copyright watermarks on them. We’ll have to decline a poem or swap out the image, if there is a risk of copyright issues.
    - The image should not be the poem. Challenges like display resolution, or image blocking can make image-text hard to read or see for some.
    If you do wish to have an image of text, include the raw text below it so text searches will work and displaying on various platforms are still okay too.
    Avoid photo essays: a picture (or two) is good, but keep the focus on the written word.
    Images of words or quotations? The words should be yours, but a short inspiring phrase from a poet or a famous quote is fine too (include attribution!) Entire poems of another author are not appropriate.
    [TIP: Medium’s help-page explains how to put images into a poem]
  5. A Title. If you choose not to title your poem, that’s fine, but Medium’s way of formatting the front page is a title over a photo, so you should put “Untitled” into the title spot to accommodate that. With no title, Medium will squeeze a bunch of your text into the title area, and it looks messy.
    If we see a piece come up messy we’ll probably stick that in to fix it.
    (Click for some great tips about formatting stuff on Medium)
  6. Poetry not Prose. We define poetry as different from prose, and so that implies a dividing line. That could be a long discussion, so at the end of the day, we as publisher have final say about where our prose-vs-poetry dividing line is, as we try to position the publication as firmly poetry-centric.
    For some style guidance, consider that our definition of poetry is a written form that employs or explores structure (like rhythm, repetition and/or rhyme) and where word-choice and word-placement are precise, deeply considered, and economical. Every word is selected and positioned for a reason, and meaning beyond the words — conveyed through imagery, metaphor and/or simile — is evoked.
    Example: “I was riding the bus in to my workplace last Wednesday and saw a beautiful sunrise” This we would consider prose, whereas:
    “Bus. Early morning yawns/Work awaits/Sunrise captures my breath”
    …is sparse, economical, evocative and thus poetic.
    A simplistic example, but hopefully helpful.
    Generally if you employ a few of those techniques: rhythm, rhyme, structure, imagery and/or interesting language, and especially economy of word use — you’re on the ‘poetry’ side of the dividing line.
    Formatting that looks visually poem-like doesn’t make prose into a poem. Similarly an unbroken paragraph of text doesn’t cause a poem to not be a poem anymore. Format your work as you wish.
    About 1 out of every 10 or 15 submissions is declined for being more on the ‘prose’ side of that dividing line. No harm in submitting if unsure. A decline doesn’t hurt too much. :)
    And a decline doesn’t mean ‘bad,’ it just means outside our chosen focus
    — the style preference for our publication — it’s probably still a fantastic piece of writing, and you should find a home for it somewhere.
  7. Just The Poem, Please: This is all about keeping the focus on the poetry.
    Poems should be submitted on their own without intros, interpretation, background stories, graphical widgets, poem analysis, pleas for followers, clap requests or a list of your muses.
    - Avoid the urge to explain your poem. Complexity can be a good thing. Leave your poem to stand on its own merits —they are stronger that way.
    - >> Keep any post-poem text to just one line please. <<

    - Dedication? Placed at the end is best. Maximum one line still, please.
    Links to your poetry page elsewhere? Sure, no problem, within that post-poem (one line!) text you can link to your other work. It’s a good idea that helps build you a following, connect with your publications, etc.
    - As mentioned in #3, the focus should be on the words, so photo essays with many pictures are not the style-of-interest for the publication.
    - If you wish to explain something about the poem or its inspiration, try using the “Response” feature below the story after you’ve clicked “Publish.”
    - Just submit your poem for publishing once. It shouldn’t have been published on PoetsUnlimited before already, unless you’ve substantially re-written it, as poets are sometimes known to do. :)
    Please also, no promotions for other activities, advertisements for personal businesses or commercial additions of any kind. If we allow that, then in a few weeks we will be knee deep in MacDonald’s e-coupons and Pepsi promos. ;)
  8. Multiple Submissions? If you have several pieces to submit — that’s fine. Note that poems need to be submitted as separate pieces, not as several poems in a single post.
    We like to break up posts by the same poet by intermixing with the works of others, just for variety, and so the site doesn’t look like someone’s personal blog. Sometimes there may be a bit of delay in posting all of your pieces. It will depend on when other poets have submitted something. We can often manage two of your poems on the same day, but more than that will be spread out over a few days.
    On a busy day when everyone is submitting, Your pieces might be deferred a day or two.
  9. Content Limits? Other than the site being an English-language publication for English-language poetry only, there isn’t much of a limit (that’s the UNLIMITED part).
    I hate to have to say it explicitly, but yes, some content isn’t going to be accepted — hate-speech, gratuitous pornography, or long meandering political or religious diatribes aren’t going to be enjoyed by the readers here, so we’ll take a pass on the opportunity to share those, thanks (that’s the hypocrisy inherent in the system).
    Your poem should be a minimum size of a haiku, and maximum of a few pages. So neither a poem of a couple of words, nor a novella-sized one are good fits for PoetsUnlimited’s style.
    A non-English word or two is not a problem. Sometimes it’s easiest to describe something of another culture with a native noun or adjective.
  10. Edits and Repairs. I might occasionally ask a question if a word looks like a possible typo or spelling error. I might just fix it, if it’s obvious like “I saw tge rising sun that morning.” But if you want to write a piece on the enjoyment of typos, by all means we can leave it in too :)
  11. Original, Recent, Work. Ideally the pieces published here are unique works you’ve just written. But really, nobody reads everything, everywhere, so if you’re really chuffed about a submitting a piece you wrote and posted elsewhere too, okay then.
    Oh — original — yes. We expect you to have written the piece yourself. We won’t publish any ‘here’s a great poem my friend wrote” or “isn’t this a great piece by Leonard Cohen.”
    Famous, heavily-published poets tired of CONSTANTLY earning huge sums of money are allowed to share their poems with us here too. Really!
  12. “I Hate this. You are stupid and everyone is dumb and stuff.” Okay, sometimes a (rare) contributor forgets that they don’t have to write poetry for Poets Unlimited. Indeed if you employ a ground-breaking writing style maybe we don’t get it (although we really are open and accepting to new ideas). Some contributors might want different rules.
    But wait — there’s a solution! Anyone can start a website or a new publication on Medium! There are lots of good ones now. Please DO start your own rather than get too upset at those who volunteer a bit of their time to carve this one into a form that seems to appeal to the thousands of people who subscribe to it. (We still like you anyway).

Whew — that’s a lot of stuff, but each item helps preserve a functional and reader-friendly publication. Do take a look back here occasionally. There may be an addition or two as we learn how to make things even better. I’ll even try to fix some of the typos and grammar-fails on this page as I notice them.

DO promote your poem if you can take a moment to do so. Use the hashtag #poetsUnlimited on your social media platform of choice, and you’ll help both yourself and your fellow unlimited-poets to connect with more readers.

Sorry — we’re not accepting new contributors since we’ve closed up operation

Our open-periods for new sign-ups came and went quickly at the end, as the response was always quite strong.

Poets Unlimited

Six Years of poetry-only publishing, PoetsUnlimited was a diverse, engaging and authentic poetry magazine. For most of that time a daily publication, it was always diverse and original, and free-to-read by all.


Written by


It’s Ross, who lives in Ottawa. Founded, published and was an occasional contributor to “PoetsUnlimited.” Pull up a chair & read a while.

Poets Unlimited

Six Years of poetry-only publishing, PoetsUnlimited was a diverse, engaging and authentic poetry magazine. For most of that time a daily publication, it was always diverse and original, and free-to-read by all.

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