Friday, January 18, 2013

O Be Joyful!, Or Cracking that Tough Nut

36º ~ clear skies and the promise of full sun today, warming to mid-50s, not too shabby, driving around town these days, storm debris from the Xmas weather remains lumped along the curbs, word is it could take the city 2 months to clean up and waiting on FEMA for extra funds to help out

If you were on Facebook last night, you know the source of my joy.  If not, prepare to be bombarded with wahoooooooooooooo-ness.  After 12 full years of submitting to Hayden's Ferry Review, I got the call from the dugout last night (well really an email, but I'm into baseball analogies); they are putting in two of my poems for the next issue.  Insert wahoo here.  These are two more of the sickly speaker poems, poems that have been generating a lot of interest from editors but often "just missing."  In fact, that was the case with my submission to HFR last fall.  I sent a group of fever poems that were rejected but the editors took the time to compliment the project as a whole and to ask me to submit again.  I did submit new poems over the break and, well, insert another wahoo here.

Now, to build off of the rejection post from Wednesday and the other two literary journal landscape posts here and here, here's a look at my history with this journal.  (This is beginning to feel like a ME, ME, ME kind of post so feel free to quit reading if that bugs you.)

Rejections, lots of rejections.  In fact, I submitted 12 packets to HFR over the years, starting in 2000, when I was just a wee grad student.  So, we can write off the first four rejections or so as I was sending off very premature work, work where I hadn't really found my voice, my stride, my style as separate from an imitator.  (I'm not saying this is true for all grad student work, just that it was true for some of mine.)  I took a break from submitting to the journal from 2004 - 2007, perhaps I was a bit afraid at that point.  I jumped back in during the fall of 2007 and from that point on, I received both "regular" rejections and those personal "oh, so close" rejections.  I kept at it.  I persisted.  I did the work of writing the poems.

*Most importantly, I kept reading the journal.  I've subscribed in the past, but I have to share the love so don't usually keep up long standing subscriptions.  When I'm not subscribing, I read online (HFR has a FANTASTIC blog), I take note if a poem on Verse Daily or Poetry Daily is from this journal; in other words, in baseball parlance, I scout, I learn the ins and the outs of the playing field, and to stretch the analogy a bit further, I plan my pitches.

Along the way, I learned that HFR is a journal with a revolving set of editors and actually points out on its website that this leads to a more eclectic collage of styles and aesthetics.  While this can mean a submission is more a shot in the dark (I heard someone on NPR use the term "spray and pray" which comes from war/guns but was used in the context of something non-violent when I heard it), one thing I learned by reading the journal over and over was the level of quality and that this was a journal in which the poetry always had language that set my hair on fire and did interesting things.  They tend not to be quiet poems, which may be why some of my earlier work didn't make it.  Nothing against quiet poems (I've written hundreds), just maybe not for this particular journal.

So, I've cracked one of my toughest nuts.  Some folks on FB commented that they don't usually persist that long, that they give a journal 2 or 3 tries and then step back.  I get that.  It's brutal to receive rejection after rejection after rejection.  In fact, there are one or two journals from which I've stepped back as well.  These tend to be journals with established editors and styles that I've finally figured out just aren't going to like my work.  In the end though, I'm nothing if not stubborn and determined to meet the challenge.  This is not for everyone, and it certainly adds to my emotional roller coaster ride in poetry, but it's how I work at this time in my life.  And while I could do it all alone in the world, that ride is certainly much more fun with the family and friends I have cheering me on or offering comfort.  Thank you all!

Insert several yawping wahooooooooooooos here.  Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance.


Shawnte Orion said...

Way to go! That's one of my favorite journals, as well.
Wahoo, indeed.

And thanks also for the lesson on persistence.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Shawnte. Something about an ant and a rubber tree plant comes to mind. :)

Molly said...

Love this idea of scouting not only by subscribing (because we can only do so much of that, right?) but also by paying attention in other ways. Many congratulations, and thanks for sharing your wisdom here.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly. There are so many ways to pay attention. I learn this often on your blog!

Jeannine said...

Congrats, Sandy!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Jeannine!

Tawnysha Greene said...

So happy for you! Congrats!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Tawnysha!