“Well, there’s no reason on Earth why you should, of course. There’s only one editor here, one person whose taste determines what gets into the RAR, and if you don’t like my taste, I don’t give a rat’s ass. Go someplace else for your poetry dose. (I don’t really think that makes me different from all the millions of others with online poetry zines, but I’m willing to admit it.
“But you’re here to find out what to send me so that you can partake of the glory that is Rat’s Ass Review. And I’ll tell you. Send me your best poetry. I don’t particularly care whether it’s formal or informal, metrical or free verse, rhyming or not. I’ve written all those possibilities myself. A good poem isn’t one that gets the grades for following particular rules. And I’m sure I’ll reject plenty of good poems anyway. I’m not even sure I’m looking for good poems. I’m looking for my kind of poems.
“Now we’re getting to it. What is my kind of poem? My favorite poets are Richard Wilbur and Elizabeth Bishop and W. H. Auden and Edna St. Vincent Millay and W. B. Yeats and Robert Hayden and a bunch of others who don’t have much in common.
“What they do have in common is that, if you read their best poetry carefully, you will understand something about what’s going on the first time you read it. You will get a lot more out of each poem the more you read it, but you don’t have to study it to get the first level of enjoyment. It isn’t work. You don’t have to tie the poem to a chair and beat it with a hose (apologies to Billy Collins).
“I do want to see something going on beyond the surface, so that I can read the poem over and over and still get pleasure from it. But I need that surface pleasure. I’m not a great thinker about poetry, and I need my immediate gratification.
“And what don’t I want to see? Well, I have my own prejudices, after all. I am not much interested in poetry about God, unless you are Alicia Ostriker or Mark Jarman and are wrestling with God in an interesting way. If you are a young poet with angst, I’ve been there and done that, and I don’t see any need to put it into my journal. I’m not interested in how evil any person or group of persons is. If you must write about Saddam Hussein or Dick Cheney, show me his warm, charming side. If you are impelled to write about the evils of the political left, take it to someone who agrees with you.
“And don’t send me anything I’ve seen a thousand times before. Send me the poem that no one but you, in the entire history of poetry, could have written.
“Send me as many as five poems. I’ll get to them when I can. We have three levels of form rejection letters: insulting, regular, and encouraging. You’ll be able to tell which one you get. If you aren’t rejected, you’ll get the glory of having your work posted on this site, and nothing else; you’ll give up first electronic publication rights, and nothing else. If I remember, I’ll register the copyrights as a compilation.
“If you want to send me a translation, it’s up to you to clear the rights to the original.
“I’m a writer too, so I understand about your not wanting to tie up your work in one place for a long time. I try to answer within a week, and unless you state otherwise, I’ll assume it’s a simultaneous submission.”
So wrote founding editor David M. Harris in 2009 when he launched Rat’s Ass Review. In early 2015 the editorship changed hands, but David’s vision remains the guiding sensibility of the journal. To David’s list of poets I would add Mary Oliver and Anne Sexton and Patricia Fargnoli and Pam Bernard and Alexis Rhone Fancher, and I hereby confirm that RAR’s selection policy will remain idiosyncratic and wholly subjective.
You are free to disregard any or all of these guidelines, but you do so at your own peril. If, for example, you choose to submit a poem about God, understand that you have dug yourself a hole, and are now trying to throw your work over a barrier which you have chosen to make higher.
As stated above in the short version, to submit, send up to five poems as a doc or docx file to email@example.com. Please include your name in the title of the document, for example Frost, Robert Three Poems RAR July 2020.docx. We only accept electronic submissions. If you really want to make me happy, include a brief (no more than 75 word) third-person bio and the titles of the individual poems in the email, type your poems using Times font, size 12, left justified, and don’t capitalize the first word of every line as though you were writing with a quill pen.
If all of this isn’t enough, you can go to Jim Harrington’s site Six Questions For . . . or to Trish Hopkinson’s site A Selfish Poet where I go on at even greater length. Both of these excellent sites were kind enough to allow me a chance to discuss Rat’s Ass Review and its editorial quirks.
And, you can also go to The Dreaded Cover Letter and let Samara Powers give you more good advice on the fine art of not annoying editors before they even get to your first poem.
As a potential contributor you should know what we are offering to our poets:
Rat’s Ass Review is committed to publishing the best new and established poets, and to promoting those poets and their work as diligently as we can. We will work to bring our poets to the attention of literary critics and anthologists and onto the desks of award committees. We believe that your success is our success, and, if your work is accepted here, we want to be your best cheerleaders.
Effective with the publication of our Summer 2015 issue, we have established a forum for our contributing poets to participate in an ongoing on-line workshop, where they can submit draft poems and get feedback from other Rat’s Ass Review poets. There are currently 92 poets in this free workshop; if you are published with us, you will have the option to join them.
Again, to submit, email up to five poems to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roderick Bates, Editor
Rat’s Ass Review