Saturday, January 22, 2005

Turnaround

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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Blogging or Submitting

You have chosen, if you're reading this. Day before yesterday I sent out a new packet of poems to four different magazines. Poems were all finished, no tweaking needed. All I had to do was select the four poems for a suite, select Rattapallax, Threepenny Review, Atlanta Review and Many Mountains Moving. I had to print cover letters, stuff the batches into envelopes, stamp them and walk them to the mailbox. Time spent: 2-1/4 hours.

Most working poets report an average about 17 subs per acceptance, and I'm right in there at that average. I'd like to improve my average, naturally, so I spend more and more time filing and re-reading my increasingly complicated rejection letters. There are flat-out forms. Or the cheery and inviting forms that beg you to consider this rejection as an anomaly, and please send more work for us to reject. Then the scrawled notes on forms: "We liked 'My Architect' the best of these. Then comes the truly personal note: "Good to see more of your work. I really enjoyed these poems" -- and yet they sent them back! These often are accompanies with subscription forms.

I read in a blog that Marianne Moore wouldn't give up on a poem until it had been rejected 40 times. Who would reject Marianne Moore 40 times? It's an apocryphal story, but has an embedded truth. What could I be doing besides submitting poetry or stories for publication? (Besides writing - I know that!) Blogging, of course. Time expended just now to read three blogs and write this: 25 minutes. And I haven't even finished my first cup of coffee.

I'm now working on an essay entitled, "How the Internet Is Ruining Your Poetry." Stay tuned.