Black Lawrence Press

Poetry Consultations with TJ Beitelman

Do you have an in-progress collection of poems that could use an expert eye? If so, we’ve got four talented poets, all of whom have a great deal of experience as writing teachers, who are ready to help.

Manuscripts may be up to 75 pages in length and should be formatted in 12 point font. The consulting fee is $250. The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is April 30, 2017. Our poets will respond with their critiques by May 31.

Read on to learn more about TJ Beitelman. If you might be interested in working with Elizabeth J Colen, Bettina Judd, or David Rigsbee, click on the “Consultations” button at the top of this page and make your selection from the dropdown menu.

Space in this program is limited, so be sure to submit your manuscript soon!

Click Here to Submit

Statement of Purpose

“These are the two forces that form must come to terms with. The imaginative tendency to include everything, through disjunction and wildness, allows all to enter a poem, versus the concentrating gravities of formal control, of will and limits. We must work to lose control when control has become too limiting, just as we must assert more vigorously the presence of choice to counter a too great loss of control. The making of poems is in constant tack between these two poles and there will always be poems that fail in this zigzag sail.” – Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction

I agree with Young’s sentiment, and I think the “zigzag sail” is a perfect metaphor for how a poem or a manuscript forges its way into the world. If it was a straight line, we’d all be writing technical manuals. These are some basic elements I consider when I read and respond to poems-in-progress:

Intention. The essential question all readers must ask of what they read—why did I read this? What is it trying to communicate to me?

Form. Line and shape and punctuation are the parameters of a poem. Has this poem found its parameters? Is the poem in a traditional verse form? Free verse? Why?

Sound. What sounds does the poem make and how does it make them? Does it pay proper attention to the rhythms of language? Are there poetic devices such as alliteration/consonance, anaphora/repetition, rhyme, etc.? What affect do they have on the poem’s meaning?

Image. What does the poem help us see? What about the other physical senses? Are those things concrete or abstract? Satisfying or not? Are the metaphors fresh, unique, pertinent?

Language. Does this poem have good words in it? Does the juxtaposition of words create energy and meaning? (That is to say, there’s a difference between “orange juice” and “blood orange,” even though they both contain citric acid and originally come from trees.)

Voice. Does this poem come from an idiosyncratic (original, unique) perspective? All good writing does. Is that idiosyncrasy successfully communicated to the broadest audience possible?

I’ll respond to individual poems and to manuscripts with these elements guiding my commentary, with the overarching goal of reading the work on its own terms. You are, after all, the captain of the ship (to circle back to Young’s maritime metaphor); I aim to be the guy who’s climbs the mast and shouts “Land ho!”

By TJ Beitelman

Black Lawrence Press accepts submissions and payment of the entry fee exclusively through our online submission manager, Submittable. We are not able to accept submissions via email or postal mail.

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Upcoming Consultations

We’re planning some great consultations for 2017! Creative nonficiton with Abayomi Animashaun, fiction with Kelly Magee, poetry with Jessica Piazza and much more. Stay tuned for details!

TJ Beitelman

TJ Beitelman is a writer and teacher living in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s published a novel, John the Revelator, and a collection of short fiction, Communion, as well as two collections of poetry: In Order to Form a More Perfect Union and Americana, all from Black Lawrence Press. His stories and poems have appeared widely in literary magazines, and he’s received fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. He taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where he earned an M.A. in English, and at the University of Alabama, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing and also edited Black Warrior Review. He currently directs the creative writing program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. He can be found on-line at

Beitelman Author page