Dead Poets Submission Service


Evan Lavender-Smith

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 123 in June, 2010.

Are you the boyfriend of a recently deceased poet whose poetry never made it to print?
Are you the father of a recently deceased poet whose poems were rejected by literary journals hundreds upon hundreds of times, but who nevertheless continued to submit, believing in her heart that her poetry was really, really good?
Are you a former friend or relative of a recently deceased poet who never took the time to send her work out to journals, publishing houses, and contests, not knowing that in the near future she would be found putrefying on the floor of a rundown hotel room near the beach?
If you've answered Yes! to any of these questions, then Dead Poets Submission Service may be right for you.

As anyone with experience in the publishing industry knows, retaining professional agency is the first step toward seeing an author's work in print. So what better way to jump-start your dead poet's legacy than by retaining the services of Dead Poets Submission Service, a literary agency which specializes in the work of dead poets and will represent your recently deceased poet in the manner most conducive to establishing and honoring her memory?  

We do not accept simultaneous submissions.    


Cover letters composed by editors at Dead Poets Submission Service include a biographical note acknowledging the recent death of the work's author, including the cause of death in the most tragic cases (e.g., . . . of a pulmonary embolism at the tender age of 26), as well as a descrip­tion of her many fruitless at­tempts to publish her work before entering eternal life, if applicable (e.g., . . . who was, before entering eternal life, rejected by journals, publishing houses, and contests hundreds upon hundreds of times).  Our cover letters are printed on 24-lb. cotton paper with the D.P.S.S. logo embossed at the header in dark red ink—a symbol now widely recognized as the stamp of approval for the work of dead poets—ensuring that your dead poet's work will likely be pushed through the screening process and quickly rise to the top of those mountainous slush piles without a single critical reading.

The process of submitting your dead poet's work is now amazingly simple. With the recent addition of our new Online Submission Center, it's only a matter of minutes before one of our highly qualified editors will have your dead poet's work in hand, already considering which journals, publishing houses, and contests will be the perfect fit for her.  And for an additional fee, our staff of editors will edit your dead poet's poetry, always remaining true to the spirit of the original and the intention of its author. Writes Ethan S., a D.P.S.S. client whose fiancée died just last year of unknown causes:

Ode to E.
Will today be the last day of life
of your shy admirer? Yes. No.
Maybe. The colors on my quilt
remind me of childhood, of
not-knowing. Now everything
feels overexplained. I remember
standing outside, looking up at
the sky. My old overwhelming mystery.
Now your gray eyes are all I have
left of that old mysterious sky.
And now they are closed.

Ode to E.
Shy admirer,
ruffled sheets, 
raggedy childhood quilt:.
Mystery red, phantasmagoric blue.
The crisis of representation
has me feeling a bit blue today.
World, I miss you!
World: When a quilt was
just a quilt, something
to lie under.

Fig. 2: The benefits of our editorial process: a poem as submitted to D.P.S.S. (a) and as revised by D.P.S.S. (b), since accepted for publication at Ploughshares.

I thought her poetry was pretty good to begin with, but when I saw the changes your editors made to her three poems that later appeared in Ploughshares, I couldn't believe my eyes. I now know Camilla really was a true talent, and I feel confident in saying that the literary world suffered a great loss the day she died.
You will retain final editorial rights to your dead poet's work—unless you choose to waive those rights—and every single one of our edits is accompanied by a 100% money-back guarantee. How can we offer such a guarantee? The answer is simple: The superior quality of our editorial staff. Many of our editors are graduates of the highly esteemed Iowa Writers' Workshop; those who are not have either graduated from an MFA program listed in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report and have published widely in first-tier literary journals, or have graduated from a Top 50 program but have published at least one book-length collection of poems to strong reviews.
We accept multiple submissions. We accept short-shorts if the prose is highly lyrical. We do not accept novels, short stories, or essays—yet.
More than a few of our editors are on a first-name basis with poetry editors from major literary journals and publishing houses as well as many of the judges who will be deciding each year's major poetry contests. D.P.S.S. editors will never hesitate to use their myriad connections in the publishing industry—student–teacher relationships, professional relationships, sexual relationships, friendships—to give your dead poet that extra edge, so necessary in today's over-saturated literary market.  

In certain cases, your recently deceased friends or relatives may not have written any poetry at all. Will D.P.S.S. still submit work on behalf of these dead poets? Of course we will. Just send us a brief biographical sketch as well as a list of your dead poet's interests (e.g., oceanography), hobbies (e.g., fly-fishing, racquetball), certain catch-phrases she used or bad jokes she told, (e.g., "Eureka!" "What did the dolphin say when he bumped into the whale?" etc.), and social security number. Within 2–4 weeks you will receive 5–7 of her poems, or within 3–5 months you will receive her entire book-length manuscript. Pending your final review of these poems­—unless you've chosen to waive your right to final review—we will then submit your dead poet's work to the appropriate literary journals, publishing houses, and contests. Please refer to our Fee Schedule for the list of fees associated with the revision of a non-prolific poet's poetry.

The letters of gratitude keep pouring in: former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has called Dead Poets Submission Service "the world's premiere submission service for posthumous publication." Jorie Graham, author of more than ten books of poetry, writes, "Without Dead Poets Submission Service many of my dead poet friends' work may very well have never seen the light of day." Such glowing reviews of our service are many: Here at D.P.S.S. we pride ourselves on providing a voice to those millions of recently deceased poets who can no longer speak for themselves.    
If you're submitting your dead poet's work by mail, please be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE). We will respond as soon as your dead poet's work has been accepted for publication, typically within 2–72 months. If you'd like a copy of the manuscript returned to you, be sure to include sufficient postage on your SASE; otherwise, your dead poet's original manuscript will be recycled.

We are pleased to announce the inception of The Dead Poets Discovery Prize($1500), to be awarded annually by the D.P.S.S. editors for the best poem received in a given year written by a previously unpublished dead poet. If you wish for your submission to be considered for this prize, please indicate so on your cover letter and include a $50 entry fee in addition to other appropriate fees. Note that receipt of The Dead Poets Discovery Prize does not necessarily guarantee a poem's publication.

Q: My best friend recently died of a pulmonary embolism, or so the doctors say, at the tender age of 26. Clara had submitted her work to literary journals hundreds upon hundreds of times without a single acceptance notice. She was an extremely talented poet and I think the world deserves a chance to read her poetry. At her funeral I approached her father and asked, "I wonder if you'd allow me the honor to continue submitting your daughter's poetry to journals, publishing houses, and contests? It's only a matter of time before someone accepts her work." He became visibly angry after I had spoken these words; I haven't seen or been able to contact him since.

Do I have any legal recourse? May I just go ahead and submit Clara's work to you without the permission of her family? —Eric M.-R.

A: Yes you may! When your dead poet's work is accepted for publication, we will be responsible for contacting her literary estate's legal executor and making all the final arrangements. All that we require of you is the submission of your dead poet's work, the appropriate fees, and the crucial biographical information (i.e., the names of journals, publishing houses, and contest judges who rejected her work; and, of course, the exact cause of her death).

We have never once had an executor refuse a publication offer. If you were sent a letter indicating that your recently deceased fiancée had poems posthumously accepted at a highly regarded publication like The Paris Review or Tin House, what would you say? You would probably say, "Eureka!"

We prefer work from poets who are recently deceased (less than 5 years) as opposed to long-deceased (5+ years). Work from recently deceased poets tends to generate stronger excitement among editors of journals and publishing houses and judges of contests; the more recent the date of death, the better your dead poet's chances of publication will be.  Likewise, if your poet died a tragic death (e.g., suicide) as opposed to a placid and/or typical death (e.g. pul­monary embolism or unknown causes), her chances will be that much stronger.

Fig. 3: Two dead poets, recently deceased (a) and long-deceased (b)

In cases of typical death, we ask that you provide us with some key bio­graphical information which might help to generate additional excite­ment about your dead poet: the names and ages of surviving family members, the names of editors at journals and publishing houses who rejected her work more than once, any hobbies or interests she may have had which in retrospect strike you as particularly romantic or poignant, such as armchair oceanography or lunchbox collecting.
For submissions from friends or relatives of poets who are planning to commit suicide but have not yet committed it, please contact us as soon as possible. Your dead poet can benefit greatly if we have her work pre-formatted, -edited, and ready to send out on the day of, or the next business day following, her suicide.      

Dead Poets Submission Service is now accepting book reviews! Are you a friend or relative of a recently deceased person who was an avid reader of poetry collections published by small- to medium-sized publishing houses? Do you recall fragments of conversations with her in which she voiced an opinion about one of these books? (E.g., "Her book sucked!" "That book made me wanna puke.") If so, you may consider submitting these fragmentary reviews and letting our book review editors edit and submit them for publication at esteemed publications like The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, and Library Journal. Even if you suspect that your recently deceased girlfriend didn't read the entirety of the book being reviewed (e.g., "I thought that Ashbery's new book was . . . interesting"), chances are more than likely we will still be able to work with you. Select "Book Reviews" from our Online Submission Center page for some helpful tips on how to begin creating a book review from your dead book reviewer's dialogic fragments and/or angry mutterings.

Q: Don't you think the service you're offering is kind of crass? I mean, you're exploiting the fact that these people are dead to get them published and using these poor folks' personal tragedies just to make a buck.

A: We couldn't disagree more strongly. But don't take our word for it—refer to the words of Maya Angelou, perhaps the most famous poet in the world: "I would recommend Dead Poet's Submission Service to anyone who's recently lost a loved one, regardless of whether or not they wrote any poetry [sic]." The letters of gratitude keep pouring in. Plus, note that our prices (e.g., $10/poem submitted or $150/manuscript submitted; $3/line of poetry edited or $25/hour of editing) are quite reasonable, especially considering the quality of our editorial staff and our unrivalled rates of acceptance.*

If you are submitting work by a dead poet of minority status, please indicate so in your cover letter. For submissions from friends or relatives of poets who died of an AIDS-related illness, refer to our Submission Checklist for Friends or Relatives of Recently Deceased Poets Who Died of AIDS. 
Founded in 1983 by a small group of editors alarmed by the lack of representation available for the work of both dying and recently deceased poets, Dead Poets Submission Service has since grown to the size of a large-scale literary agency with headquarters in New York and forthcoming branch offices in London and Sydney. In 1998, D.P.S.S. eliminated its Dying Poets division to focus solely on the work of poets who are recently deceased, leaving the representation of dying poets to its new sister company, The Agency for Terminal Poets. Since its inception, Dead Poets Submission Service has submitted work to the industry's leading journals, publishing houses, and contests on behalf of more than 2 million dead poets worldwide, with an astonishing 98% acceptance rate.* D.P.S.S. and its affiliates—including The Agency for Down-Syndrome Poets and The Literary Agency for Infants and Toddlers—were purchased by AOL-Time Warner in 2002.

Q: My name is Christina and I am twenty-six years old. I have been writing poetry since I was very young. I have received hundreds upon hundreds of rejection slips from journals, publishing houses, and contests over these past years, and not one single acceptance. I've been considering suicide since I received my fiftieth rejection from Ploughshares (another small slip of paper without any human handwriting on it at all). Unfortunately, I don't know that I have the will to take my own life. Plus, my boyfriend, Edwin, would be crushed. So would my dad. But I believe in my heart that my poetry is really, really good. What do you suggest I do?     

A: We're glad you asked! Because we've recently received so many letters like yours from unpublished poets who haven't the will to commit suicide, we've recently implemented a program by which these prospective dead poets can, for a modest fee, receive a humane course of euthanasia. We can either make it look like you died suddenly of natural causes (e.g., pulmonary embolism), of unknown causes, or that you committed suicide—the choice is yours. If you choose the latter, one of our editors will, for a small additional fee, help you draft a heart-wrenching suicide note which may or may not include a list of journals, publishing houses, and contests that rejected your work. The benefits of posthumous publication will finally be available to everyone, without the difficult task of suicide standing in the way.

To the Editors at Epoch; Ahsahta Press; Alaska Quarterly Review; Verse Press; Viking; University of Iowa Press; American Letters & Commentary; Atlantic Monthly; Noemi Press; Bakeless Poetry Prize; Milkweed Editions;  Bitter Oleander Press; Black Warrior Review; BOA Editions;  Boston Review;  Iowa State University Press; Boulevard;  Quarterly West; Coffee House Press; Colorado Review;   Sarabande Books; Conjunctions;  Santa Monica Review; Eastern Washington University Press; Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux; Fence Magazine; Fence Books;  Florida Review; Four Way Books; Georgia Review; Yale Younger Poets Series; Gettysburg Review; Glimmer Train; Granta; Graywolf; Gulf Coast;   Oregon State University Press; Harper's; Hayden's Ferry; Indiana Review; Indiana University Press;  University of Utah Press; Iowa Poetry Prize;  Open City;  Kenyon Review; Iowa Review;  Poetry; Copper Canyon Press; Louisiana State University Press; Michigan Quarterly Review;  Yale Review; Ausable Press; Michigan State University Press; Missouri Review; New American Writing; Zoo Press; Slope Editions; National Poetry Series;  New Orleans Review; New Yorker; Shenandoah;  Tin House; Spuyten Duyvil; Northeastern University Press; Northwestern University Press; Mid-American Review; Apogee Press; To the Regular Editors as well as the Guest Editors at Ploughshares; To the Editors at New Issues Press; Poetry International; Prairie Schooner; Cimarron Review; Southern Review;  Dalkey Archive Press; Threepenny Review; Triquarterly; Paris Review; Western Humanities Review;  Red Hen Press; University of New Mexico Press; Other Voices; University of Oklahoma Press;           Alice James Books; University of Wisconsin Press;  and To All the Others Whom I've Forgotten:
   I will never again touch the ocean or cast a line or smash a racquetball with my old wooden racquet or find an old X-Men lunchbox at a garage sale for a nickel or tell a stupid joke or hug my boyfriend or my Dad or write another poem because only in death can I surface from your fathomless slush piles!
   Dad: "I didn't do it on porpoise."
   Eli: Keep writing. It's only a matter of time….
   Caroline S{.}
   Unpublished poet

Fig. 4: A heart-wrenching suicide note co-composed by a D.P.S.S. editor and an unpublished poet who was later euthanized.

We accept work year-round. Please include your name as well as your dead poet's name on every page of the manuscript you submit. If submitting by mail, use staples to attach multiple sheets together­. Never use paperclips alone.

So what are you waiting for? New poets are dying every day. By tomorrow your recently deceased poet's publication chances will have decreased considerably. Set your dead poet's legacy in motion by contacting Dead Poets Submission Service today.
NOTE: Dead Poets Submission Service is not affiliated, either directly or indirectly, with Submissive Editors' Extermination Service, the organization which has claimed responsibility for the recent rash of assassinations at the country's most highly esteemed literary journals and publishing houses.
*Acceptance rate reflects that of poems revised by D.P.S.S. editors.