Rejection


I used to handle the rejection of my poetry very badly. I still don't like it; nobody does. But two or three magazines in a month declining my submissions won't make me question my right to call myself a poet anymore.

Once, in the print days, I had a lot of success publishing with Bryn Fortey in his legendary magazine 'Outlaw'. I thought I had cracked it; I thought I knew how to write good poetry and that everything I produced would be loved by everyone.

Then two editors sent my submissions back by return of post. One was brutal. I was so crushed by his demolition of my work I couldn't write for months.

Which is silly, really. I'd never met the man. Nor had I ever read any of his poetry. Why would his opinion matter if I had no measure of his right to offer one?

These days, roughly 50% of my submissions are accepted, or one from 50% of the bundles I submit, to be more precise. That's an average I'm proud of, though I'd like it to be higher. But I've discovered a remarkable thing about the ones that come back: usually they deserve to.

I read the poems again when they're rejected. I've selected the magazine I submit to carefully, so I want to know why they didn't think anything I sent was suitable. And almost always, there's something a little wrong with the poem. The rhythm falters, or the movement of the idea doesn't work, or the language is too lazy somewhere.

It's obvious isn't it? Rejection's not personal; they don't know us.

You could, of course, console yourself with the idea that all editors are philistines; that the small-press poetry game is just a love-in between a bunch of middle-aged white men who never quite got over Charles Bukowski's passing; that in a just world you'd have every award going.

But you'd be kidding yourself.

These days I try to take rejection as a sign that I have to work harder. And you know something? When I do work harder I write better poetry.


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