Earlier this year I finished sifting through the couple of hundred poems I wrote last year, sorting the wheat from the “maybe wheat but could be chaff” and the “downright-what-were-you-thinking-of-chaff”. Then I reviewed each of my glorious golden heads of wheat, cleaning, primping and polishing them until I could eat my face off them.
There’s a mantra, to which I subscribe, that you should keep sending work out into the world if you’re serious about getting published – fairly obvious, I know, but for many writers this is the hardest part, perhaps because a lot of creative types struggle with the fairly dry process of editing, managing records of where they’ve submitted and drafting hopefully-not-too-obsequious cover notes to editors. Some have likened the submissions lark to a kind of game which is akin to placing an each-way bet. Personally, I love the moment of clicking “send” on an email or “submit” on Submittable – that glorious heave-ho whereby your little rowing boat full of poems glides effortlessly off the shore’s gently sandy slope and out to sea. Only they’re on their own now, rudderless. And there might be sharks. Anyway…
At the time of writing I have (purely coincidentally) 52 poems out at a total of 12 magazines and/or websites, and most were sent towards the end of March. That means, I suspect, that any time soon I will hear the gentle thud of rejection slips or (here’s hoping) the odd cheerful fanfare of acceptance. It’s a peculiar position but one which I’ve brought on myself by systematically sending all but about ten of my wheaty poems. This time next month I could either be excited about seeing some of my poems in print or online, or I’ll be back to square one trying to work out where to send them next. Personally, I think it will be a mixture of both, but you never know – as Jim Bowen used to say to losing contestants at the end of Bullseye: “That’s the gamble”.
I’ve gradually increased my submission rates since my first tentative attempts early in 2014 and I’m reasonably happy with my System, which I’ve adapted slightly from this one. That means that although I’ve steadily reinforced my glass jaw against the savage upper cuts of rejection, rather than simply shaking them off and ploughing on regardless I’ve tried to learn from each in terms of what each editor’s preferences might be, or taken the scalpel to poems which have been rejected by more than, say, three editors. Of course some poems are favourites with which I’ve persisted, and happily I’ve found homes for most of them even after they’ve been turned down by anything up to six publishers; you don’t always need to nip and tuck work if you believe in a poem enough…just so long as you’re realistic.
One of the nice things about receiving feedback from editors, is that positive or negative I know I can share my news with the group of friends I’ve made online. After 52 ended, a lot of its members decamped to a new “secret” group elsewhere on Facebook where we share our highs and lows, discuss opportunities, commiserate, celebrate and engage in general banter. Hearing that others have been turned down by a magazine to which you’ve also received a thumbs-down is a very nice way of taking the sting out of rejection. On the flip side, finding out that one of your peers has penetrated the defences of one of poetry’s loftiest magazines gives you heart – the revelation that they have to publish someone, so it might as well be poets like us.
Beyond all of that, I’m going to start choosing poems for my debut pamphlet, which I hope to publish later this year or early next. I’m also very excited about finally meeting up with other 52ers at Stratford Poetry Festival in July as well as continuing to publish work by some brilliant writers on Clear Poetry. Speaking of which, CP’s recent listing on Duotrope has lead to a lot more web traffic, as well as an increase in submissions from across the Pond, which I’m delighted about.
Anyway, dear blog reader, I’ll keep you posted as things progress.
As Jerry Springer used to say: “Until next time, look after yourselves, and each other.”