Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances: Hannah Norman, Permission Granted

As a platform for emerging poets, our mission is to provide practical help for serious writers. The community lifts itself up together or not at all. In that light, we’ve been asking some great editors from around the literary community for their frank thoughts on why poems may get accepted/rejected from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances. Today, we’re speaking with Hannah Norman, Editor of the new poetry anthology Permission Granted.


What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?

Hannah Norman: Especially when dealing with emotionally impactful and relevant topics, I am always looking for poems that use metaphors to add nuance, subtlety, and create something new. A great strength in poetry is the many layered messages that can coexist, and metaphors are a powerful vehicle for truth. I also love to see poets that hone their usage of different forms. Whether that is the ability to create a sonnet that does not feel constrained, a villanelle that drives home the cyclical nature of an event, or free verse with carefully chosen line breaks, poems that are natural and eloquent in their form and syntax are always impressive. Ultimately, there is no formula to follow- any poem that says something and does it well is welcomed.


If there were one craft technique that you wish poets would focus on, what would it be?

Balance. I would like a poem to have a strong and consistent narrative voice, whilst retaining beautiful language. Sometimes features that make poems poignant and evocative, such as beautiful imagery or careful attention to sound, are discarded in favor of a storyline. Other times a poem has a powerful idea, but the language itself is didactic or disjointed. Poets who craft language that stands out both for its own sake, and in the context of the entire piece, create the most impactful work.


What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?

Hone each poem, and make sure you know what its goal is. Once you’re satisfied with your work, get advice from others- friends, critique groups, other poets. Don’t send a piece out before editing and proofreading it thoroughly- response length can vary from days to months, and you don’t want to realise after submitting that your work was riddled with typos and errors. Sometimes it is best to let a poem sit for a while, and return to it with fresh eyes. If a piece is rejected, figure out why. Revise what didn’t work and keep trying.


How many rejections have you faced and how do you deal with them?

I’ve received several hundred rejections. Over time they’ve lost their sting for the most part. That being said, poetry is an inherently emotional art to some extent, because to impact the reader, they require the poet to condense a whole experience or emotion into a short space. Hence, there are naturally some pieces that I laboured over for days, or that I wrote for a cause I am personally invested in, that are difficult to move on from. I deal with these by revising them and sending them out again, hoping that they’ll improve with each rejection. After the first rejection I can revisit a piece more objectively, paying attention to flaws I may have missed before.

I’ve found it helpful to aim for a set number of rejections each year- it makes receiving them a celebration in some ways.


Does your publication seek out specific styles or aesthetics of poetry that writers and submitters should know about?

Permission Granted Poetry Anthology is centered around freedom of speech. That does not mean poems must address this topic, however, we are seeking work from poets who live or have lived in countries with restricted freedom of speech, or poets whose work has been censored or limited in other ways. Our goal is not to solely discuss freedom of speech, but to provide a space for poets whose work has not been able to appear in their home country, or who have a background that provides them with personal insight into the importance of free speech, press, and creative arts. The poems themselves can be concerning freedom and political or societal themes, revolve around place, or be completely unrelated to these topics.


What book of poetry / craft would you always recommend to new poets?

I wouldn’t say there is one book of poetry everyone should read or emulate. I would recommend reading a range of books by experienced poets whose writing you admire. Personally, if I am attempting a new genre or style of writing, I try to read several different books or collections of work in that style first, and learn from a variety of work. Online journals that publish regularly can also be helpful to read, as they often display examples of strong writing that vary greatly in tone, structure, and style.


Hannah Norman is the editor of Permission Granted Anthology and Cirrus Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in RattleIsacoustic, and Charleston Style and Design Magazine, among others. She currently lives in a region with limited freedom of speech.


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