Thanks for the memories, Rejection Edition.

One of the other things I neglect in order to focus on poems is this blog, and blogs in general. Sorry about that. On the up side, however, I wrote a new poem. I have one more small edit to make — which I’ve been thinking about since last night when Lance read it & pointed out that a line was confusing — and, okay, there’s an image near the end that I’m not entirely happy with yet & is acting as more of a placeholder until I come up the right-er one. But it’s pretty close to done, and I’m pretty close to happy with it. Which makes for a pretty perfect sort of day.


Literary Rejections on Display today is highlighting the new book, Other People’s Rejections by interviewing its author, Bill Shapiro. It’s an interesting interview, and he closes with this piece of advice:

Risk rejection… and save your rejection letters. No, no—not for me. For you! Not every writer will have the story about the 30 publishers who rejected them before landing on the best-seller list. That’s not what this is about. You’ll look back on the letters years down the line and see them as markers of your passion, your bravery.

Now I don’t know from bravery, but I’ve saved all my rejections since I began submitting too long ago.  I do think of them as “markers of [my] passion,” indicators of the seriousness I take my writing. As unsettling as the idea is that my poems are actually getting out into the world & being read by strangers, I consider finding an audience for my poems part of the work of being a poet.

Some evenings I pull out the bulging file of rejection slips (while also noting with no small satisfaction that the acceptance file is gaining weight too), and, in an act my husband considers masochistic, I page through the papers. But I do this for two reasons. First, it reminds me how far I have progressed: the early days of peremptory slips have given ground to many more personal notes. Second, it reminds me of those encouraging notes, of journals I haven’t tried in a while that I need to send work to. I find that I tend to get in submission ruts, forgetting certain journals for periods of time. My rejection file is a great resource, an archive of journal contact history. I hope I always have it.


The First Annual NaPoMo Poetry Giveaway was very good to me, to my neverending surprise. My winnings:

  1. from Jennifer Gresham at Everyday Bright, a copy of her chapbook, Explaining Relativity to the Cat. This just arrived today — thank you, Jen!
  2. from Ron Mohring at Supple Amounts, a copy of Deb Burnham’s chapbook, Still.
  3. from Ronda Broatch at After Artist’s Way, copies of her chapbooks, Some Other Eden and Shedding Our Skins.

It was great fun meeting so many new folks, though I’ve been so wrapped up in my own work since then that I haven’t explored the blogosphere much. Thanks again to everyone for making poetry month so much of a real celebration.


Draft of the Week, #10.

Did you know there’s going to be a partial lunar eclipse on December 31, 2009? I was already working on this poem yesterday when I read this — there are amazing websites that list all the upcoming celestial happenings, and run graphics that show you what the sky/moon/sun will look like during the event.  Because these events always seem to happen at ungodly hours on cloudy nights.

Lots of Collected Poets Series doings right now, keeping me ultra-busy — check out our excitingly full slate for next year — but I hold out hope that I’ll still fulfill Mary’s “3 New Poems before 2010” challenge — and I received a welcome extra boost yesterday in the form of an acceptance from The MacGuffin.  The last couple weeks have seen many long-awaited rejections, a couple personal & encouraging, the rest little form slips.  Sigh. Thus this acceptance has taken on greater significance by virtue of (presumably) being the last word on the matter this year. And this is the 4th NaPoWriMo 2009 poem to be taken so far, nice assurance that the angst was worth it.

This poem will stay up the usual couple days, and then [poof!]:


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


Cave Wall 2.

I did at last receive my rejection from Cave Wall (, and I have to say, if I weren’t already happily married with child etc, I would totally fall in love with the editor. Seriously. That was the single greatest rejection ever! — loaded with comments & praise — subscribe now, Rhett (the editor) is awesome, she deserves beaucoup rewards for such generosity! And as I mentioned earlier, it’s an excellent journal, too.

I won’t go so far as to say a great rejection is better than an acceptance, but I’ll be carrying this envelope around with me for a while.


To Submit…

For some mysterious reason that has something to do with my browser, my old ibook, or combination thereof, I cannot comment on Word Press blogs from my home computer-no field shows up, nada. I say this to let all you fine fine people who comment know that I’ve read your comments with glee & will respond from my work computer (on a break, of course) as soon as I can.


I once had a poet friend who did not send poems to journals because he found the entire process of “submitting” demoralizing and demeaning. He was only partly kidding.

By way of C. Dale Young’s blog, I found this post by Jackson Bliss. It’s a very funny rant. A couple excerpts:

if it takes you a year to reject me, you need to send me your home address with the rejection letter so i can drive to your stuffy apartment and smack you across the head for wasting my time and feeding my irrational dreamworld.

now i’m only gonna submit my stories to the best lit journals (defined in my own way), journals that accept online submissions, and journals that give me good rejections.

new yorker: what the hell is wrong with you? does it really take you over 6 months to send me this as a rejection email:

“dear author,

we haven’t read your story and we never will because we don’t know who you are and your name won’t attract readers, so why don’t you stop sending us stories until people know who you are.”

okay, they don’t say that but they might as well. . .

I rarely submit online, because of said computer and the fact that, as I expressed re: Subtropics, I can’t tell sometimes if my rejection is a form or personal, and it goes without saying that that matters, and, as a bricks and mortar bookseller, real physical paper matters to me, too, and real physical mail, and notes with ink on them, i.e., “good rejections.”

I enjoy the process of submitting, enjoy looking through journals and deciding which will be the lucky recipient of my “artful poems” next. You’re right, Emma, it is a hopeful thing.

But holy moses, what follows, the interminable waiting, well, I gotta go with Jackson on that one. I understand the whys and wherefores, and I do my best to do my share, subscribing to many journals & buying many more off the shelf at independent bookstores (though with the demise of De Boeur’s {sp?}, the distributor of the lion’s share of literary journals, I don’t know how often that will occur anymore), but months & months of an empty mailbox can wear a body down. I know the smart tack is to send ’em out & forget about ’em, get to work on other poems. But while I get to work, I can’t help keeping another eye out for the mail.


The good news is that (I’m almost afraid to say it out loud) Vincent is honestly & truly well again. Knock wood. He’s a skinny little young ‘un, he can’t afford too much of this sort of thing!


More & Less.

I celebrated prematurely, we are not through yet, but–I can see a break in the clouds–Vincent’s not well, yet, but he’s less unwell than he was.

So that’s enough of that.


An interesting thing about submitting to Subtropics is that they only respond via email, whether you submit electronically or post, so no SASEs are required. Today, after about a month, I received an email from them. Rejection–but nicely done!

Dear Marie,

Thank you for your submission to Subtropics. After careful consideration, we have decided that we cannot find a place for your artful poems in our upcoming issues. I wish you the best of luck in placing these poems elsewhere.



Now, I’m pretty sure this is a form rejection, but that one word, “artful,” cushions the blow, makes it sound more personal than it probably is. Note that “probably.” I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Subtropics, even though they rejected me, because they called my poems “artful.” Isn’t that wily of them?

If you’ve been rejected by them, please, tell me, what did your email say?