Saturday, January 22, 2005


I finally got off the couch and began to submit work again. To start the year off right, I sent out several batch es of poems to some favorite magazines, and then rashly decided to make a run again at Threepenny Review. This has become a weird experiment. The last two times I submitted, they popped my reply envelope back so fast it broke the sound barrier. Well, a week later I got my new rejection so fast I thought they had found a way to time travel -- actually rejecting me before I submitted.

I cruised on over to Threepenny's site, hoping to find that there was some mistake, and I had submitted during their off period. Perhaps their robot was slitting open envelopes and stuffing reply forms into the SASEs, then popping them into the mailbox. But no. The site informed me that response would be 3 weeks to 2 months.

Because I spent 87 cents to get this rejection, I don't feel a week's turnaround has really given me my money's worth. I have often complained about a magazine taking too long, but this feel absolutely abusive. I either want my 87 cents or my sanity back.

Three pennies' worth of advice to other writers: don't bother to try to join the likes of August Kleinzahler and Seamus Heaney in upcoming issues. Regardless of what they say, they do not read unsolicited work. They just toss it to the envelope-stuffing robot.


  1. Anonymous3:35 AM

    Well, good luck in your endeavours. I admire your energy & commitment. Since running a blog I've virtually ducked out of the submission process, preferring to post poetry & settle for a small audience. The amount of energy & self-organisation needed for the big mailouts is, at present anyway, wholly out of proportion to the positive responses.

    I'll check back to see how it's going & maybe that might inspire me to gather up the resources & have another go!

    Dick Jones / Patteran Pages

  2. Dick,

    I know what you mean. I recently counted up the number of magazines I submit to for every acceptance, and it was averaging 18 subs for every poem. I figured it took me about 15 minutes per sub, if sending out the same package of 5 poems to 3-4 magazines. If I assembled a different package of poems for each magazine it took longer. So 1 hour to send a package to 4 places, not counting the time to select the poems, which sometimes is the most time-consuming.

    I do it because it's part of a dialogue with editors and readers (most of whom I never hear from), and because it connects me with the larger poetry world. But it costs dearly, in terms of time. I find it's stimulating, though, to my writing process to see which poems make their way out into the world, and how long they take to do it. I read recently that Marianne Moore published a poem that had been rejected 40 times. I wonder if that story is apocryphal. I usually quit after 20-25 tries.

    Good luck if you do decide to start submitting again! One thing the Internet has done for poetry is to more closely connect poets from other English-spekaing countries. I like reading writers from other countries in American lit-mags, and vice versa. One of these days, I'm going to have to try Poetry London, for example. :)