Last fall, along with thousands of others, I submitted poems to several top literary journals: Agni, Ploughshares, Tri-Quarterly, Boulevard…etcetera. Among the publications chosen was Shenandoah (The Washington and Lee University Review). Responses came quickly from some, with a note of unequivocal rejection. No matter how pleasant sounding the terminology implemented is, a form letter cuts to the quick. When the bulky response from Shenandoah came, I was sure that my manuscript had been left intact in its pristine state, accompanied only by a slip of nothing – denoting nothing, implying all.
I opened it with the deft slice of a letter opener meant to take a stab at the bill collectors, bulk mail purveyors and rejection slips. Inside, were two of the three poems that I submitted. The third was nowhere to be found. If not for the accompanying letter and contract requesting permission to publish “The 30Hz Hypothesis”, I would, without a doubt, have inferred that they had recycled my poem as a coffee mug coaster subsequently crumpled it up into a ball and slam dunked it for two points in the nearest waste paper basket.
Today in my mailbox, I received the Spring/Summer 2005 special edition of Shenandoah Vol. 55, No. 1. I opened up the edition to the contributor’s notes section. The poets included herein are: Mary Oliver, Cleopatra Mathis, Michael Waters, William Wenthe, Sarah Gorham and Robert Parham. There are another 33 poets included in “A Portfolio of Appalachian Poets” (partial list: Maggie Anderson, Robert Morgan, Lynn powell, Steve Scafidi, Jr., George Scarbrough, Jonathan Williams, Charles Wright and Marianne Worthington...) . I had specifically requested this issue to be included (with my complimentary one year subscription) because of the vast array of poets that it afforded. I am, so far, not disappointed with my choice. In particular “Six Recognitions of The Lord” by Mary Oliver caught my eye and will inevitably require rereading.
The Fall/Winter Volume i.e.: Vol. 55, No. 2 will not be a “special issue”, albeit that it will (for me) represent a very important step towards some form of recognition of what I am attempting to accomplish with the written word using the elements of poetry as blueprint. Included therein, and presented here, in no particular order are poets: Leigh Ann Couch, Robert Collins, Rodney Jones, Linda Pastan, Alice Friman, Stever Gehrke, Gary Gildner, Ronald Wallace, Stephen Corey, Tim Keane, Adam Sol and David Wagoner. Perhaps as some detractors have intimated, I am unworthy of being included in the same publication as the above. Maybe they're right!
The poem in question has been critiqued in the on-line poetry workshop milieu and received some rather caustic remarks from several critics. Yet, the very same poem has been accepted by a highly reputable review. Furthermore, the words, diction, syntax, line, trope and rhetoric have not been altered one iota. These two facts appeared to me to be irreconcilable and constitutes one of the reasons why I decided to limit my participation on these on-line poetry boards. I did not like the implications and/or the conclusions that I arrived at when trying to formulate an hypothesis which best accounts for the aforementioned discrepancies.
Perhaps, to many of my blogging colleagues the accomplishment of being published in a top print publication is passé as they have authored books of poetry and have garnered poetry awards and achievements. But to this humble would-be poet it affords “un motif valable” to consider himself a poet. Now comes the hard part: to write more poetry that I feel comfortable presenting to a reading public.