Sunday, August 07, 2005

A publication in the house. . .

Yes, it's wonderful and exciting. The irony? It's my husband's publication. And it's in a computer magazine: Dr. Dobbs something or other. I can't even read it because it's written in another language, namely Geek :) Another stinging reality? He made $600 from it, which is like twice what I've made from prizes, publications, etc. in my entire poetry career (unless you count the essay contest I won in 8th grade, for which I got a $500 savings bond, but I'm not sure that should count. . .). I'm not bitter, not at all.

The sting turned into a terrible burn because on Friday, the day Dr Dobbs hit newsstands, I recieved two very strange rejections in the mail. One from a publication who solicited work from me but wrote on the rejection that my poetry was "too intellectual," to which I reply, "good! I must be doing something right!" They asked me to send more poems, but I'm not sure I want to send "dumbed down poems" just so the editors don't have to think too hard. Probably just not the happiest place for my poems to find a home. The other rejection was the most bizarre I've seen so far, as a form letter, nonetheless: "We appreciate the poems you sent to 'X'. Our editorial staff carefully considered and discussed your work. At this time, we could not come to a consensus that allowed us to find a place for your work in our magazine, but we hope you would consider sending us more work in the future." I happened to be having coffee with a friend who used to be an editor/reader for this magazine (what are the chances!?!) and she said this rejection means they liked the poems but couldn't find a place for them in that issue, which I can totally appreciate and find EXTREMELY helpful, both as a specific comment on this poem (I actually only sent one poem. . .it was a themed issue) as well as a comment about the business of journals in general. This is yet another reason why simultaneous submissions seem the only way to go: while three out of ten journals might like my poetry, it doesn't mean they all have a place for them in their current edition. Important lessons learned.

I'm proud of my hubby, of course. But the fragile ego of a poet can only take so much beating in one day.


Justin Evans said...

My first submissions were in 1990, and they were awful. Some editors questioned my decision to be a writer and told me I should ask the same question. Rightly so. My poetry then was, as to be expected, simply terrible. My first poems were accepted in 1994. It was two and a half years to my next acceptance. After acceptances in 1997, it was until 2000 for my next. I had a few in 2001, but then things started to pick up for me in 2002. Since then, I have had about 5-6 acceptances per year. To date, I have had about 40 poems published, as well as my 1st chapbook. Pretty good because I don't write nearly as much or often as I should.

I have had tons of rejections. In his book, Stephen King tells how he kept all of his rejections on a nail in the wall. I could never do that. Not from the volume, but because of my ego. I could never get anywhere if I kept my rejections hanging around (at least 30 for 2004).

I would never again submit to a place which asked for poetry and then rejected it on aesthetic sensibilities. Craft is one thing, but on the issue of being "too intellectual," I would tell them off. As for any ink you get from editors in a personal way, look at it as a good thing. You should send them something else. Editors usually don't have time to say anything, and when they do, you should take them at their word because they are not going to encorage someone to send them material if it's going to be a waste of their time.

If you are getting three positive responses out of ten, you are doing fine. It's just a matter of finding those venues who can't do without your poetry, or at least the particular poems you sent them.

I have taken beatings in the rejection end of things on several occasions. I received three rejections in two days once, and three rejections in a week once. I have waited over 18 months for a rejection, and I have had a rejection within 8 days. I agree completely with you about the fragile ego.

brandijay said...


The worst rejection I ever got (and I still have it, along with all my other rejections, because I'm sadistic like that) said, and I quote,

"Too offended to read."

Jesus. It's a miracle I ever wrote again! :)

Patty said...

The most cryptic rejection I ever got was scrawled on the bottom of a standard rejection: "I wanted to publish these, but...."

That's it. Nothing after "but", and those silent ellipses.

And yea, rejection is tough. The slips are small, but they pack a big punch! Whenever I get a rejection I force myself to send out two submissions immediately.

Scott Glassman said...

The smaller the slip, the bigger the punch it seems. It sucks how the world monetarily rewards a certain kind of writing because it can be mass consumed like a happy meal, and waves off poetry which is necessary sustenance for the spirit! What an amazingly ass backwards culture we live in. The same can be said I guess for pay scales of social workers (of which my wife is one), teachers, and [insert noble profession here] vs. entertainers. Maybe poetry needs to get an agent like Drew Rosenhouse, someone willing to kill for it, do ANYTHING in order to advance it's public image and wake up the world to its real value. Perhaps poets should start a movement where we deceptively flash-package intense non-Billy Collins-ish poems in wrappings of happy meal glitz and technicolor, and deliver it to the unsuspecting consumer with the idea that they need to be force-fed it, but once they taste it, they'll like it so much they'll seek out more. Like the medications you stick in your dog's food. Before we know it, wallah. A poetic awakening in our midst, poets getting good money for their work, valued like the bardic voices of ancient Greece.

Scott Glassman said...
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poetzie said...

Fabulous. These are great comments! Thanks for sharing.

I wonder how many people do keep their rejections? I definitely do- all neatly filed in a binder, displayed in those clear page protectors (oh, the irony!). I have two binders full to date, many of the rejections from the same place and some of the notes even in the same handwriting, so in many ways that's a good sign because the same people are reading my poems time after time. Michael Anania told me that editors would need to read my poetry two of three times before they were able to see the value in it (a compliment?) so to keep pounding the places I really wanted to get into. More work for me, but the hope is that it'll spread like wildfire. Though I suppose that's every poet's hope:)

Keep the rejection stories coming!

Justin Evans said...

One more story to add. My chapbook was rejected because in the editor's words, "I cannot and will not gamble," and for the "graphic violence."

1. I mentioned I live in a gambling border town.

2. The first poem (later to be reorganized) mentiones gun deaths in my family by accident and violence.

3. The editor sent me a self-published chapbook which had less than subtle references to incestuous relationships and in one poem, for no apparent reason, kept repeating the phrase:

"I'm the baby, I'm the baby!"

I kid you not. Boy am I so glad my book went elsewhere.