Received my first rejection of the year today! The first of many, no doubt.
There was no explanation, beyond the generic ‘it’s not for us’. Poetry editors don’t tend to explain why. I don’t blame them. There are a good number of writers out there who have a somewhat overrated opinion of themselves, who would respond to specific feedback with justification of why the editors are wrong and or / further requests for clarification at best.
Editing a poetry magazine, whether in print or online is a time consuming matter. It is not done with profit in mind. So if you are sending out poetry and getting rejection messages, don’t be a dick.
Your poem has been rejected for one of the following;
- In the view of the editors it wasn’t a fit for their publication
- In the view of the editors, whilst it was a fit there were others that fitted better and they didn’t have enough space to include your poem
- They already had enough poems like yours for this specific edition and didn’t want any more
- In the view of the editors it wasn’t very good.
Last year fourteen of my accepted poems were taken by the first publication I sent them to, five by the second place, two by the third, four by the fourth and three by the fifth.
Ultimately, it’s all down to personal opinion. Editors do miss plenty of work that ends up in the canon of great poetry (Sylvia Plath anyone?). Having said this, don’t kid yourself – if your poem has been rejected 20, 30, 40 times, it probably isn’t very good.
Stick it in a drawer for a few weeks then have another look at it. Obvious imperfections may become more apparent – sometimes we are too close to what we have written and need time away from it to see where it could be improved.
Read it aloud several times – how does it sound? Have another look through – are there any words or lines that stand out against everything else? Is this because they are good or is it because they don’t actually fit the poem?
Take it to a virtual or online workshop, share it with poetry friends (but not on social media as that might count in the eyes of some editors as being published).
But keep going.
Keep writing, keep revising, keep submitting and don’t be disheartened.
Keep reading poetry – not just the greats but contemporary work. It will influence your writing. If you don’t read poetry, and don’t read a wide range of poetry, from different eras, countries, styles and writers, how are you going to write anything worthwhile?
Good writing starts with good reading!
Good luck for your writing in 2022!