Friday, December 08, 2006

One of the Things I Love

OK, so rejection happens often to poets. Cultural rejection. Rejections in bars. Etc. But today I'm thinking about the rejections that come in the mail. The little slips of paper that we've all gotten so used to.

Of course, now it looks like journals are starting to find it better to go to the online submission: The Kenyon Review, Fence, and others. I think jubilat is moving to that as well?

Do you like this move? Have you had a nice exchange with the submission engine? I'm ambivalent about it. But I haven't yet had much experience with it so far. There seems so little room for a human to respond to one . . . they don't even have to lick an envelope . . .

What I'm thinking about is the paper rejections that keep the postal system in business. What an interesting exchange. One sends poems to Journal X, and then in several months one gets the "Thank you, but" note. Or perhaps a smiley-face drawing.

Today I recieved what I consider the best rejection I've ever gotten. Here's the note:

"Real talent here. I
find them a little
detached in tone, though.

I share this, not because there's the nice nod to talent (one so likes to be called talented!), but to the way that the editor (whom I've met and respect) is honest and specific. I can tell by this, two things:

1) I value detachment. Excellent! (All those Louise Gluck books I've read have finally started paying off, it seems.)

2) My poetry will most likely not ever do well at this journal.

So, what is your favorite rejection, and why? (Please support your answer with specific examples from the text. )


At 12/08/2006 5:05 PM, Blogger louise said...

interesting-- yeah, your poems are detached-- but that's sort of what you *do*, I mean, that's your thing-- or part of your thing, right?

At 12/08/2006 5:08 PM, Blogger louise said...

oh, and my all time favorite rejection was getting my poems back with no note, just a big slash across each one-- as in "NO".

I can't remember what journal it was. I blocked it out. It was early on enough that I'm somewhat amazed I kept going!

At 12/09/2006 6:24 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Ouch. Seriously. That seems rather violent.

At 12/09/2006 7:53 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Louise --

Distance. What do we (they?) mean by that anyway? And is that a poetic value?

I think you're right about my own poetry, I'd say something like "the woman" rather than "my mother." Is that what we mean by distance?

There is a harshness to Louise Gluck's distance, a dramatized dispassion. A flatness. Is that distance?

I would place your Lark Apprentice in that catagory as well. Would you?

Actually, thinking about the things I value the most in poetry:

1) Image first!
2) The necessary mystery of what it is to live.
3) The realization that language is a thing itself, but also that it refers to things.

Perhaps they predispose me to like, and to value, poetry that has a certain "distance."

I wonder if that's true. But there is a tone I value. I never have defined it as "distance" before. Distance sounds self-congratulatory. It sounds exempted from the scene, from an engagement in the scene.

Can there be an existentially engaged distance?

If distance is the furthest move away from sentimentality, then count me in.

Ahem. Count us all in!

At 12/09/2006 12:23 PM, Blogger louise said...

well, yes...
I just read for Sarah Maclay's class at LMU, and a couple of the students are writing papers on my book, and this was something that came up--

I'd say one of the central tensions in my book is between distance (however you define that-- many times in the book physical) and intimacy (and of course there are many ways to define that too).

Interesting discussion that we might take "back channel" lest we bore everyone. But the word we were beginning with was "detached", and then it morphed to "distance". Are these the same things?

Clover, for example, in his reading of his poems, was sort of, well, detached, but the poems were not necessarily distant. Year Zero broke my heart. "A sweetness with a hook on either end".

- Louise

At 12/09/2006 6:03 PM, Blogger Stephanie King said...

I received a rejection once from a journal with a little note that said "Really close. Nice dark, enigmatic style."

I really appreciated that rejection because it helped me understand what aspects of my poetry they cared for. I felt more secure in sending other pieces to them because a lot of my writing is "enigmatic" so to speak.

As for the move to online submissions... I'm iffy on that. I guess I'm just comfortable with my nice neat paper trail. I have submitted to magazines like Kenyon online... but it feels so "disconnected," so impersonal.

At 12/10/2006 6:20 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'd prefer "enigmatic" to "detached" any day.

At 12/13/2006 6:36 AM, Blogger Penultimatina said...

Stephanie, I think that I got the dark enigmatics from somewhere once too! That sounds really familiar.

My fave rejection was from the Paris Review, because it was a good rejection, and I like to include it when I make my "how to publish" packets for students.

I do not like rejections where the editor claims that he/she "didn't get" the poems, especially when they aren't really experimental ones. Did you try, yo? Did I forget to put them in the envelope?


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