This week I want to tell you about Visual Verse, an online anthology I was introduced to a couple of years ago and which I have been regularly submitting work to ever since. The idea behind Visual Verse is that at the start of each month they post an image, that visitors are invited to use as the starting point for a poem or piece of short fiction of between 50 and 500 words. The catch is that from first looking at the image to submitting your work to the website is supposed to take no longer than an hour.
You don’t necessarily have to write about what you see. You’re invited to use the image as a starting point, nothing more, so it’s up to you to decide how you use it. You can describe it, if that’s what you want, or you use it as a trigger for some old memory you’ve been thinking of writing about for some time, or even write about something completely different then try and edit it in some way so that it at least has some vague connection to the image.
You get an hour, so you submit the best you can do in that time, and the chances are, you won’t feel that what you’ve submitted is as good as it can ever be. But that’s okay. They’re not looking for the greatest works of literature ever produced – unless you can give them that within the hour – they want something that’s interesting, that’s new and exciting, that challenges.
I warn you, it’s not always easy. I give it a go every month, and while sometimes I’m genuinely amazed by what I’ve been able to produce within the time limit, sometimes (like this month) I find myself forty-five minutes into my hour with almost nothing to show for my efforts. And then that final ten minutes or so becomes a desperate race to get something – anything – down on paper and given at least a basic edit to ensure I’m not submitting something I’d be ashamed to see in print.
Each month they publish about 60 – 100 submissions, which means there’s a good chance of seeing you work in print relatively often if you take the challenge seriously and submit every month. At the moment I’m running at just over 50%.
Getting your poems published is always a pleasure, but for me, getting them written in the fist place is just as important, and that’s where Visual Verse is most helpful. It makes me write, and it makes me write a lot more than a single poem each month. Once I’ve written and submitted my first effort, I’ll often return to the image over the following weeks and write several more, maybe working up ideas I initially rejected, or finding something completely fresh with the benefit of a more relaxed timescale. In terms of my poetry, this past year has probably been my most prolific ever, and much of the reason is definitely because of Visual Verse.
And on top of this, there’s also the fact that I get to read an entire anthology of other people’s work. Every month. For free. What’s not to like?
You can read my published work on Visual Verse here