Ode to Rejection.

Thanks everyone for all your good wishes. Any prize in any year is a tremendous event to me, but this prize, this year, well, let’s just say the timing is impeccable.


I admire this poem to no end. Haven’t we all lived this, in some fashion? And doesn’t it just capture how absurd the process can be? I found it in Jack Myers’ The Portable Poetry Workshop; the poem is by Philip Dacey, from How I Escaped from the Labyrinth and Other Poems (Carnegie Mellon, 1977):

(There are some indented lines that WordPress refuses to accommodate — sorry!)

Form Rejection Letter

We are sorry we cannot use the enclosed.
We are returning it to you.
We do not mean to imply anything by this.
We would prefer not to be pinned down about this matter.
But we are not keeping — cannot, will not keep —
what you have sent us.
We did receive it, though, and our returning it to you
is a sign of that.
It was not that we minded your sending it to us
That is happening all the time, they
come when we least expect them,
when we forget we have needed or might yet need them,
and we send them back
It is not that we minded.
At another time, there is no telling,
But this time, it does not suit our present needs.

We wish to make it clear it was not easy receiving it.
It came so encumbered.
And we are busy here.
We did not feel
we could take it on.
We know it would not have ended there.
It would have led to this, and that.
We know about these things.
It is why we are here.
We wait for it. We recognize it when it comes.
Regretfully, this form letter does not allow us to
elaborate why we send it back.
It is not that we minded.

We hope this does not discourage you. But we would
not want to encourage you falsely.
It requires delicate handling, at this end.
If we had offered it to you,
perhaps you would understand.
But, of course, we did not.
You cannot know what your offering it meant to us.
And we cannot tell you:
There is a form we must adhere to.
It is better for everyone that we use this form.

As to what you do in the future,
we hope we have given you signs,
that you have read them,
that you have not misread them.
We wish we could be more helpful.
But we are busy.
We are busy returning so much.
We cannot keep it.
It all comes so encumbered.
And there is no one here to help.
Our enterprise is a small one.
We are thinking of expanding.
We hope you will send something.

— Philip Dacey