Two days ago, I received my tenth rejection from a journal that I dearly love, Hayden's Ferry Review. I can state their name because I love them. I simply want to say that sometimes even persistence doesn't win in this carousel game of poetry submissions. Nonetheless, I shall persist. Granted, I may only submit once a year now. I first submitted to HFR in 2000 when I was a wee second-year student in my four-year MFA program and really had no right to be sending out my fledglings. After that rejection, I took a few years off and resumed submitting in 2003, when I was about to graduate. I've been known to submit to them twice a year, as they read all year but have two specific dates when they stop and make decisions about the next issue. HFR is an outstanding journal, but one that has a rotating staff, so this string of rejections is less of a sting. In fact, if I had been rejected ten times from a journal with a standing editorial staff, I'd probably be wasting my time and money to continue. So, Dear Reader, here's one valuable lesson I've learned in the last decade: to know if the journal has a revolving staff (usually associated with a degree program) or an unshifting group of readers and a standing editor. These things matter in the game of persistence when submitting.
|My own photo of the carousel at the LR Zoo|
The Dirty Napkin for taking "When the Weather Forms a Holding Pattern." You can read about the drafting of this poem here. I've appeared in The Dirty Napkin once before, and it is always a boost of confidence to be granted that second acceptance. My records show two rejections in between these acceptances, healthy reminders that sometimes the poems just don't fit and sometimes I send out before the final coat of paint on the poems has dried and they arrive still smudgy. The Dirty Napkin was one of the early adapters of using audio files for their online journal, and I'm happy that I'll get a chance next week to record this new poem.
Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts for taking "Stumbling Away from the Oracle." Here's the story with this one. I knew the founding editors of this great journal out of the University of Missouri Columbia; I knew them way back in the days of the late 90's. When they had the journal up and running, I sent them some poems, again at the beginning of my time as an MFA student. Needless to say, the poems did not pass muster, but the sting of that rejection really sang because I knew the editors personally. I don't mean to imply that I thought by knowing them I'd immediately get in the journal; I only mean that I was embarrassed that these writers I admired had seen my less than worthy work. (I hung my head in shame for days.) After that, I didn't submit to the journal again until the current poetry editor (and my friend) Stephanie Kartalopoulos encouraged me to do so. Again, just knowing Steph was no sure thing. I can attest to her scrupulous eye as an editor and I know that "Stumbling Away from the Oracle" earned its own place in the next issue of Center.
Redivider for taking "Pantoum for the Landlocked Girl." As with The Dirty Napkin, this will be my second appearance in Redivider, and I had two rejections in between. However, this acceptance is especially sweet because, as you know Dear Reader, I am not a formalist poet. To know that this pantoum has found a home is doubly cheering. You can read about the drafting of the poem here. I also have to give a huge shout out to Big Tent Poetry for having a weekly pantoum prompt going at the time that set me on this course.
Now, I must confess, that even as I've established a tiny bit of a name for myself in poetry journals, it is still a thrill to receive the acceptances and a bitter pill to receive the rejections. Sometimes I worry about submitting too much and placing too many poems, lest I become a name that is bantered about at parties as the "loose" poet. However, I really do believe in each and every poem that I send out, and I believe that they each deserve to be read by a wider audience. So, until someone tells me to stop, I shall continue on my path of persistence and riding this crazy carousel over and over and over.