“How to get poems published” is a common keyword phrase used by poets who don’t know quite where to begin. I recommend simplifying by dividing poetry into “chapters” which I consider as separate chapbooks. If you go with one “chapter” at a time, there isn’t a long wait either in accumulating enough publish-worthy material or in the actual publishing process. It also saves money in the short term (sort of like financing without paying interest).
“Chapters” (potential chapbooks) can be divided by date or by subject. This is self-explanatory: Christina Taylor poetry, 2000-2002; Christina Taylor poetry, 2002-2005; etc. The years of the poems would likely be the chapbook’s subtitle. One would probably choose the title of his/her most shining poem within each collection as the actual chapbook title, and begin or end the manuscript with that particular poem. (I’ll get into manuscripts in the near future.)
Some people prefer to divide poems by subject. This is a strategy that would appeal to readers who favor particular subjects (i.e., love poems or poems on observations during world travels). Either way, the result is small collections that can be grouped into a larger corpus up the timeline. If we scan the Table of Contents of various poetry books that focus on singular poets, we often find that the entire book is apparently a collection of smaller books. Some poets will comb through their work and choose the best of each collection in compiling “the big one.”
Let us rewind and take it one collection at a time. Once poems are divided by date or by subject, find a publisher online who specializes in chapbooks (as always, I recommend myself via Middle Island Press). The price should be considerably less than perfect-bound book publishing which costs according to quality of materials as well as the number of pages. (While it appears organized, I don’t believe in charging for every little thing, personally. I believe in offering a flat rate and promising the best possible quality.)
To begin small and simple and present one “chapter” at a time is to pay in installments, essentially, but it is also to build readership and gain momentum while sharing something that looks more personal, more “gifty.”
We chapbook publishers are an author-friendly bunch. Nobody should feel intimidated by approaching us with questions or manuscripts, or while tiptoeing around the Internet wondering “how to get poems published”… We will be happy to guide you through the process.
(Middle Island Press is one of the best chapbook publishers on the Internet.)