Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Carefully considered my submission?

Here's an interesting response from a well-respected journal to which I submitted poems three days ago:

Thank you for submitting your work to Meridian. While your work was carefully considered, we are unfortunately unable to accept it for publication at this time.

The Editors

CAREFULLY considered? Ridiculous. How carefully could it have been given due consideration in three days?! I sent the batch of poems on October 17. I received the note on October 20. Now, of course, they might have a grudge against me. Or they might have been overwhelmed with work and this is supposed to be a form rejection.

But "carefully considered"? I picture the editor in his/her slippers and robe, sitting before the fire carefully looking over my poems and thoughtfully scratching his/her chin. To take or not? One? Several? None? Just how carefully were these poems considered, one wonders.

You have to remember, in most cases at literary journals, it's undergrads who are reading the incoming submissions. So, okay, the undergrad who happened across my submission actually read all four poems all the way through. Perhaps they even kept them around for a day and a half before deciding not to take any.

But can that really be described as "carefully considered by the editors"? For one thing, editors is plural. Could the poems have been passed around in the three days (and I'm stretching it -- it was more like two and a half days) they had possession of them.

These are not my worst poems, at least I didn't think so in sending them. I was aware of Meridian's reputation and tried to send some of my very best work. I don't think this "careful consideration" will incline me to try again, not that they encouraged that.

Just saying. Sometimes you don't really know to whom you're sending. You'd think University of Virginia would take a little more care.


  1. My problem these days is editors holding onto poems for months and months only to reject with a "sorry to have kept these so long." BUT! Once not too long ago and batch of poems went from Seattle to Texas and back like they'd accidentally been slipped onto a FED EX jet. Careful consideration? Then again, he might not have dug my aesthetic. Silver lining: I got the poems back out in a few days--none of this 9 mo. wait BOOSHOO.

  2. Martha, you made me laugh instead of wanting to punch some undergrad. I love that -- "accidentally slipped onto a FED EX jet." Ca m'amuse! In poetry, anything can happen. I agree, better the 48-hour rejection than the six-month one.

  3. I'd rather have it back in 3 days than nine months with a blank rejection..."Fail fast" as they say in techie-ese...

    Have you noticed more personal rejections lately? I've been getting a lot of them and don't know if it's a trend or just a coincidence...

  4. Fail-fast, I like that. Yes, I have noticed more personal rejections, or perhaps faux-personal ones. This 48-hour-Fed-Ex reply came from "the editors" of Meridian, suggesting a midnight caucus of top decision-makers who then achieved consensus and agreed to keep the tone as friendly as possible while sending out their decision by Harry Potter's owl, a magical creature that flies above time.

  5. I just got a rejection from the Kenyon Review in three days. I do not think swift rejections bode well in general.


  6. In recent days, I've had an editor, after holding onto a poem for several months, tell me my submission was lost. In fact, she did it twice. I've also had an editor promise to publish a poem he liked in the fall. When his fall edition was published, guess what poem was absent from the mix.


  7. Anonymous7:17 AM

    As a poet who now sits on the editorial side of the fence as well, I must say three days is more than sufficient to know whether or not I like a poem and if it is appropriate for my readership. I could wait a month (or nine) before responding to submissions, but what's the point? As a poet, I'm delighted on those rare occasions when I get a response from an editor or agent within days, because it means I can either chalk up a success or move on. Editors don't spend weeks or months hunkered in deliberation over specific submissions; they're just trying to find time to READ them. I suspect the average poem gets about two minutes of evaluation; anyone considerate enough to speed up the historically poky publication process ought to commended!