Payment: $1 (twenty-five cents a line)
Long Guidelines for Short Poetry
Very short poetry is often treated like very long poetry—as if only cocksure geniuses are allowed to present it to the public so don’t you dare waste our time. Bollocks, we say. An excellent short poem is the purest poetic joy. So: we’re on the hunt.
The rules for Quatrain.Fish are simple: All poems are of four lines or fewer.
One is good. Two is good. Three is good. Four is good. Five is right out. Try Cinquain.Fish.
(Please don’t, say, rewrite a seven-line poem to make it three. Poems are at their best in their native shape. Respect your poem’s shape. Form, as you know, means shape.)
Submit your work as a standard document file or as part of your email, but keep in mind two things—we post screenshots of poems. Which means how it appears on our screen is how how it will appear on the site. So make sure it looks how you want it to look. Corollary: If you use a wacky font, we may reject your very good poem. We don’t want Quatrain.Fish to look like a seventh-grader searching for identity.
(If you want to send instead an image file of your poem, we may just use that instead of a screenshot. We’re more agreeable to handwritten text than Curlz, but keep your personality in check regardless.)
We’ve chosen this screenshot format/method in part because we hope your work will be picked up and shared across the web. BECAUSE OF THIS please put your name in a visible location that it may be part of the posted image. You don’t have to of course, and we’re happy to just put your name below the image, but it will eventually disappear should your poem go viral and start appearing all over the place.
Quatrain.Fish is a paying publisher. And for our one measly dollar (twenty-five cents a line!), we’re buying neverending nonexclusive web rights.
Note that in months future we may occasionally repost a poem we’ve published in the past. We do not consider this a second publication and thus do not pay a second time when reposting. Our assumption when you submit is that you have no problem with this, all the Internet being one great round.
We have nothing against previously published work, but please don’t send scans or screenshots of your poem as part of that previous publication. Do alert us of that previous publication upon submission though. And note that if your poem is already easily accessible online, we may well choose an equally good not-on-the-web poem over yours.
SUBMIT ONLY YOUR OWN ORIGINAL WORK.
Agented submissions are fine but hardly necessary.
Although we don’t have specific guidelines as to how many works you can submit at one time, if you can’t tell what your best work is, we probably don’t care.
As personal as writing poetry is, selecting poetry for publication is just as personal. We make no excuses for making decisions that might seem at times to be petulant or inconsistent.
Similarly, liking or disliking a poem is very much about the poem and not a perception of, for instance, its politics or genre or author’s peccadilloes. Poems are considered on their own merits and no assumption of the editor’s opinions on anything else should be made on the basis of acceptance or rejection.
We are of unimpressed ambivalence regarding the use of so-called bad language, but without sound poetic reasons for fuck, you’re better off without it. Taking the muffler off your Camaro doesn’t make us think you’re cooler. The same can be said of sesquipedalia.
We have no preferences for “form” beyond the four-line limit. Rhyme, meter, neither—all fine. Just make it good.
Remember: short doesn’t equal simple (though simple can be one of its delights) and short isn’t stupid (unless charmingly so).
We’re not opposed to poems that are essentially punchlines but do not anticipate publishing many of them. So yours should be exceptional.
Haiku is a lovely form, and we expect plenty of haiku submissions, but if we’re overwhelmed with haiku we’ll slap a quota on them faster than you can say refrigerator. Besides, the world’s already filled with haiku, both good and badbadbad.
So! Whether your poem occurred in a moment of inspiration or after hours of labor, impress us, surprise us, enlighten us, amaze us, calm us down.
(On titles: poems that require titles should have titles. Poems are neither accepted nor rejected on the basis of a title’s existence or nonexistence. Titles do not count toward line-count, but beware abuse of this fact.)
Look: Even more than other poesy, the challenge of short poetry is the reader either gets it or does not get it. The poem has no extra space to make its defense. So take a breath, submit your work, and surrender to hope.
We only make payments through PayPal. We’ll assume that the email you used to contact us is where you want your $1 sent; if that isn’t the case, tell us so in the original email. (We can’t keep track of multiple items of correspondence.) You may also, should the philanthropic urge strike you, donate your $1 back to the kitty. (Just throw that fact in the ol’ original email.) In order to keep our books clean, if you don’t claim your $1 within six weeks, we reserve the right to cancel the payment.
Isn’t it awful how money complicates things? The important thing, I suppose, is that we all read this page and go along with what it says, even if begrudgingly.
We are open to occasionally publishing scans of simple doodles. We do not, however, pay for art submissions.
It’s too soon to say, but we imagine we will prefer black-and-white work.
All submissions should be sent to our editor at [due to ongoing technical difficulties, send submissions to [email protected]n.fish].
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