In which the perverse poet is chuffed about rejection

yawnDespite the frigid temperatures, my winter so far has been poetically electric. My long-awaited chapbook arrived in early December, then several journals containing a poem or two of mine suddenly went live or hit print (here’s one), PLUS Poetry Daily honored me with a New Year’s Day feature, PLUS Amy Lemmon and Sarah Freligh at the CDC Poetry Project accepted and published my pissed-off ghazal almost as fast as a president can tweet self-serving lies.

The writing life is deeply weird this way. What the flurry of publications means is I was on fire and writing lots of poems a year or two ago, and diligent about sending them out 6-12 months ago. I actually produced very little new poetry in the last few months, “Hibernaculum” aside, although the words are coming back now. I was overworked, trying not to feel discouraged, and spending my limited writing time on a couple of prose projects with impending deadlines. I revised lots, however, and strove to give older writing its due by focusing on submissions. I sent 230 poems to magazines in 2017! Those were in batches of 5, often to 3-4 magazines at once, but still, that’s a crazy amount of Submittable action (and that’s not even counting book mss, essays, and other work I’m trying to keep under consideration). Nor are my stats brilliant. Most of those submissions were rejected, a few with encouraging notes from editors; 18 of those were accepted, plus a few more I’d sent out in 2016; other verdicts are still pending.* I’m kind of shocked, but sheer numbers mitigate the chagrin I’ve been feeling as I post social media thanks and humble-brags. If brute effort counts, I earned those publication credits.

I hope my appalling math gives somebody heart, because here we go again, trying to keep our little fires burning in another year’s chilly climate. The numbers are NOT what matters. I’ll write poems my whole life, I’m sure, but it wouldn’t shock me if one day I decide not to work so hard at finding readers, and if you’ve already made that call, I respect your sensibleness. But for the moment, I have the heart and chutzpah to keep trying, mostly failing, and very occasionally succeeding. I’m ready for 2018 to reject the hell out of me.

I’m much more glad, however, that I’m writing poems again. I’d missed it. The great collections I’ve been catching up on are replenishing the well–I’ll post on my 2017 and early 2018 reading soon. In the meantime, thanks to Donna Vorreyer, and her co-conspirator Kelli Russell Agodon, for a poke in the ribs and some publicity, too, for poetry bloggers committing to 2018 liveliness, including me. Check out her terrific list of participants here.

I won’t keep up with them: my three-prep term starts Monday, to be spiced up by tons of committee work and event planning and lord knows what ordinary-life calamities. But I feel game to try.

*As I wheedled my cat into a photo shoot that clearly bored him, Poetry Northwest just emailed asking to publish 2 poems from one of those 2017 batches. If it has this kind of cosmic influence, I may just blog about rejection all year.


7 responses to “In which the perverse poet is chuffed about rejection”

  1. Thank you for writing about this… It is something we all deal with (I am a painter)- the numbers, the strained term spent promoting/submitting and not having enough time to make, only to get going again and then slammed with the rejections. It can feel so silly…because it has very little to do with why we must create. It’s an old fantasy about paying the bills, or making Mum proud.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree–it’s hard and requires a totally different energy than the making does. But it’s occasionally rewarding, too, especially when the work gets out there and connects with strangers. Not a guarantee, but when it happens, a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am awed by your energy and organizational chops. Great stats! I concur–you definitely earned those publications, and I hope you found many readers. I cannot say I have ever really found rejection rewarding, but I long ago learned not to put too much emotional energy into receiving those “no thanks” responses.

    It does take chutzpah. And heart, and work, and energy, and the kind of confidence that may take years to develop. Also, talent. You’ve got it all! Keep at it. (I, however, am in the process of deciding to send out fewer poems and trying instead to expend my energies on a backlog of drafts going back 10+ years). Tell you what–I’ll live vicariously through your publications! Sound like a plan?? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, you have way surpassed the notion of “aim for 100 rejections a year!” Amazing. I wish you another year full of flurries and good news. 🙂


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