Like High School Dating All Over Again

I'm experiencing a lot of rejection.

Probably no more than I'm due, but for a while there I was ratioing acceptace:rejection about 1:4 or 1:5, which felt really great. I barely even noticed rejections for a while. But it's actually been a really long time since I've gotten an acceptance for some of the poems I've mailed out this year.

I'm still waiting to hear back from places I sent to in April. But I guess that's a better sign because when the answer's a For-Sure no, it's NO right away, not no eight months later. That's more like an Almost-Yes no.

I'm probably just not sending to the right places. But I am sort of tired of my poems appearing in tiny, tiny journals. When I got into the Colorado Review, I thought I was entering a new phase or something. Moving up. But I've been static.

So, let's open up the circle, folks:
How much rejection is healthy for a poet?
Who was your favorite rejection?
Which rejection hurt the most?
Who surprised you most by NOT rejecting you when you were sure you would be?

I'm looking for blood.


  1. I have no life, so let me comment.

    First: I'm too lazy to send out on a regular basis. Some people send out regularly, & more power to them, but I just want to work on the poems, make them strong & beautiful. But of course, if you don't get your poems out there, you might as well recite your poems to the wind.

    I think some rejection is healthy for a poet. Taste is so subjective. The list of masterpieces that were rejected time after time by publishers is staggering.

    My favorite rejection came from the Paris Review: they wrote on my rejection slip that they liked the poems, but they wanted to see more work. I, like an idiot, haven't sent anything back to them. But it was nice to get that handwritten response to my poems.

    The one rejection that did surprise me was from Mid-America Review. One of the poetry editors heard me read at AWP & she asked me to send her poems. I did but she didn't take any. What's up with that?

    And I've been lucky enough to have several editors ask for work: the editors of Indiana Review, MiPosias, & The Laurel Review sent me emails asking to see my work, & all three of them took some work.

    But my book is gonna be so slim: I don't want most of the poems published before the book is out. When my collection gets accepted for publication, I will start sending out my poems to the biggest journals. I think editors will be more receptive to my work if they know I have a book scheduled for release. I'm so sneaky.

    And CR: from which journals are you still waiting to hear from?

  2. I'm waiting to hear from
    Floating Holiday
    Off the Rocks
    Gettysburg Review
    Poetry Miscellany
    Los Angeles Review
    Gay & Lesbian Review
    Gihon River Review
    Oyez Review
    580 Split
    Cream City Review
    Columbia Journal
    Plus the 8 or so I just sent last week...

    Some journals I've never heard back from: Newport Review, Sink Review, Jeopardy, Sonora Review. That's been over a year, almost two years in some cases.

  3. CR (Charlie!)--All rejection is healthy. I've often contemplated making a rejection wall, but I'd have to have a huge house for that. I might be a little masochistic, or self-deprecating to say this, but I send out with a little hope and a lot of thoughts of where I'll send the poems when they come back from that particular publication. I honestly can't say I have a favorite rejection; they've all been pretty standard. I sent to New England Review for five years before they took a poem (they took two, actually).

    I can see all my past teachers cringing when I say this, but I was notorious for not checking out, I mean REALLY checking out, each publication before sending them poems. Then something clicked this year, and when I started sending out en mass again in April (it comes like feast or famine), I read at least 10 poems out of each publication I intended to send to before choosing poems to send to them. Some of them I actually discarded and admitted I had no poems they would take. And this summer, a boon--7 poems accepted at 4 separate publications. Whether it's because I paid attention to the publications or because I spent the past year re-working most of the poems I have in the collection, I don't know.

    In short: have faith in your work. feast or famine is the way of the poet.

    ... and good to find you on the web!

  4. Having been rejected for several years before finally getting a bite at a respectable journal, I think I can say that at a certain point, someone has to throw you a bone or else you'll lose hope or go mad. I know the cliche--you should only write for yourself--but I guess I'm human and want at least some recognition. I'm fortunate that I was able to stick it out before throwing in the towel. Now that I've gotten my first bone, at least I have the small satisfaction of looking back each time I now get a rejection and thinking, I'm not batting 0.000%. (Pardon the mixed metaphors)

  5. First off, thanks for adding my name to your blog roll. Much appreciated.

    My favorite rejection was from the New Yorker; the sent it via email and signed it.

    The amount of rejection healthy for a poet is 42. (That was a joke.)