Submission, rejection, acceptence, reward.

I actually enjoy the process of submitting poems to magazines, the to-ing and fro-ing of mail and e-mail, the potential for something to happen.

I sometimes feel impatient with the slowness of poetry communication, but as I write this I realise slowness can be a good thing in a world where almost everything is moving too fast.

I’m lucky in that I’ve had a good ‘hit’ rate, a high percentage of acceptances.
No doubt this affects my perspective on submission, acceptance and rejection.

Occasionally the poem I sent seemed marvellous when I sent it, but rejection has been positive in that it has made me look at the poem again and realize that it my work of inspired genius may require some further work.

I write letters of submission which generally end with a phrase like “Thank you for your time and for your fine magazine.” And I mean it; I really do appreciate the editor’s work. I take care with submissions so I don’t like unprofessional responses; jokey or scrappy correspondence or no response at all will mean I won’t submit again. And I prefer acceptances to be personal. Once or twice I’ve felt less pleased by an offhand acceptance than by polite and careful rejection.

I suspect there may be may be many reasons for rejection of a good poem. Volume of submissions is one (see Poetry Submissions page of this blog for a quote from a poetry magazine editor on this.)

I wonder if the recognition by the editor of poets name will affect their choices, either consciously or subconsciously. I imagine that as a magazine takes shape the editor will be looking for poems that reflect certain themes, or for work that reflects or compliments poems she/he has decided upon.

Once I have felt despondent over a rejection or elated over an acceptance I remind myself as soon as possible that publication has nothing to do with writing. It is the making of the poem, the attempt to do this as well as possible that is most important. Although publication is of course gratifying, it is in the mysterious arrival of phrases or ideas combined with time and effort involved in shaping the poem that the real reward is to be found.

See also Poetry Submissions  on the bar at the top of this page.

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10 comments

  1. Interesting blog, Roy – I’m enjoying reading your articles. I chuckled a bit reading ‘poetry submissions’ when you said most editors are part-time – apart from the bigger mags, I’d say it’s less than that – many editors run magazines entirely in their free time, financing them out of their ordinary jobs.
    I heard of a new online mag opening soon (I forget the name) that stated ‘if you haven’t heard from us within 10 weeks, assume you’re unsuccessful’. Must say that struck me as rather rude. Volume of submissions means it isn’t really possible to reply very personally, but not replying at all doesn’t seem the way to go. We couldn’t manage Antiphon without the technology of an on-line submission system, mind you.

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  2. Rosemary, Antiphon in my opinion, probably the best online magazine. This is due to a number of factors, not least the obvious attention paid to design and layout and the easy to use submissions policy. All these factors contribute to the well defined identity of the magazine which must in turn contribute to the quality of work submitted .

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  3. I like the air of achieved serenity, Roy. I’m a long way from that, right now. For instance….what to do about a journal I’m very fond of which twice has apparently lost my submitted work. Once it was delivered by hand. Once by first class post. Twice I have not had even the ambiguous recognition of rejection. Or, the attractively designed magazine that has told me three successive times that I’m not quite what they’re looking for. In this case,, the editors are different each time, So figuring out the house preference/style is, at best, problematic. As you see, serenity is elusive for me. And then there’s the business of wondering if anyone gives tuppence anyway……as you see, it’s that kind of day.

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    • Hi John, I wrote this three years ago. I guess the ‘achieved serenity’ it conveys is not a constant state for me.
      Reading it now I can see it is something to aspire too, much like those quotes from Stoic philosophers suggesting attitudes apparently simple but so hard to obtain and maintain . If I’d found out one submission had been lost I’d probably be irritated. If it happened again I’d be very annoyed. I guess we all (writers, poets, painters, musicians who have not achieved massive success and recognition) wonder if anyone gives tuppence. I note that you have a beautiful poem (featured on this blog once) in the new Forward anthology so obviously someone has noticed your work, and not because you are young and hip (although of course forever young) or located in the right place, which is certainly inspiring to me. I suppose I wrote this piece to try and remind myself that there is nothing better, if it is going well, than the writing.

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