Sunday, December 5, 2010

The First Glowing Refusal

The world of poetry publishing is not really good at saying no. Don’t get me wrong: they reject people all the time. The thing is they rarely get around to telling anyone about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent work to journals, complete with a SASE to make the rejecting easy and free, then never hear back from them. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve started wondering if the journals are so broke financially they’re selling Stamped Envelopes on the side for a little extra cash. Never mind the white-out where the addresses ought to be.

One prominent journal I submitted to took over a year before they finally responded, and this from an editor who was a very close friend of my mentor, Estha Weiner. I guess it was a personal compliment that she responded at all. Inside the SASE was a strip of paper, the journal’s name in faded Xerox. The strip was so thin they must have saved about fifteen sheets of paper on the refusal. On the strip in black ink were the words, “Not These.”

One year and all I get is “Not These?” But then again at least I got that. I should go to the spreadsheet where I keep track of such things and list the names of the journals, but that would be petty and a Poet is never petty. Never.

Recently, I’ve begun to appreciate the contests. At least with a contest, they’ll eventually have to announce a winner. That way you get your refusal by default. It’s like asking a girl out to the prom, never hearing back from her, but going to the event just to see who she did end up with.

So maybe you’ll understand why getting any refusal at all becomes a kind of compliment. So imagine my delight at receiving my first glowing refusal.

I walked around all week gloating. They called the first chapter of Constance, Or a “fascinating piece!” My verse novel is an “original venture.” Who knew not having your kid picked for the team could feel like such a victory?

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