Friday, July 20, 2007

Zelig's Other Complaint

Yesterday I received another manuscript rejection. (Publisher's justification: "I'm all booked up and am not taking any unsolicited manuscripts".) Now don't get me wrong I haven't really sent it out to too many places (maybe half a dozen) but each rejection hits closer to the heart. Perhaps it's because I see these rejection notices as a rebuff of my work in its entirety and by extension my poetic voice and vision. (Which may not be 20/20 like some poets - but is also not as myopic as others.) Each one of these notices takes me one step closer to throwing in the proverbial towel. Have I been deluding myself for the past five years in thinking that I had something pertinent to add to the already corpulent body of modern poetry?

The problem is that I have never walked away from anything in my life. A couple of years ago I had the same feeling (as today) when most of the poets that I knew had published in print. Some of those told me to pack it in and that I just didn't have the poetic acumen to get into a "real poetry journal". Still a poem that was much derided by them as vacuous was printed in a reputable magazine. (Of course this event, in and of itself, did not repudiate their claim. But I took it as a sign from the poetry gods.)... Yet, by and large, poetry keeps pointing me towards the emergency exit. And I keep thinking about Bukowski's poem, "so you want to be a writer? :

....don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you. ...

Now I'm thinking is this just indigestion or is "the sun inside me burning my gut"?


Shann Palmer, blog admin said...

fuck zelig- do what ya gotta do.

If it's a CNN poll, I'd vote you keep writing poetry.

Shann Palmer, blog admin said...

yeah, I got a reject from Runes in the mail, nice note "so hard to say no- liked ..."

oh well

Nick said...

You know, Shann, I just don't get it. I mean every poem in my chapbook manuscript has been accepted for publication. Most in good on-line and some print journals. And yet as an ensemble I have not received any real interest fom a publisher. Perhaps it's because I don't have the 50%/50% ratio of print vs. online pubs. I'm stumped .

Collin said...'re overthinking this. I've been published in very reputable journals both in print and online and I'm about to start getting rejections back for my manuscript. I feel it in the air.

A good friend of mine -- who has won many awards and had poems in big lit journals -- sent her mss. to more than 70 publishers and contests before it was picked up. That was her SECOND book on the heels of the award-winning one.

It has nothing to do with the quality of your work, Nick. The publishing game is a lottery. That's why so many folks are turning to micro-presses and self-pub. If you want a list of some good chap publishers stateside, back channel me and I'll send them along.

Don't let these rejections get you down.

Suzanne said...

What Collin said.

Nick said...

Collin & Suzanne,

I really appreciate your support and your on-line friendship. Collin, I really don't want to go the self-pub route. If I can't get published the old-fashioned way, well then I'd rather just remain anonymous. I'll take either one or both of you up on your offer to send me a list of stateside chapbook publishers. Thanks again guys.

Brian Salchert said...

Whatever you do, stay in tune with
yourself and all the worlds you
interact with. Be ready to write
down the blessings from your sub-
conscious whether or not you ever
send what results to an editor.
If poets such as Emily Dickinson,
Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings--you
know. Early on I was briefly an
editor three times, and I know
my state of mind at the time I
read a submission was central to
my judgment of it. Now, because
I do not believe in writing to
please some editor, I am placing
my poems and my other writings
directly online. Maybe not a one
of them is of lasting value, but I
am satisfied. Besides, having my
writings in cyberspace so, I can
revise them whenever. Others are
doing the same, most notably Bill

Thank you.

Nick said...


I've never written for anyone else but for myself. Whereas I am conscious of an audience, I do not cater to it. The reader will take from my poem what they will - whatever I do. What is important to me is that the poem communicates clearly that which I wanted to impart. In so far as my MS. well it is a bit of a roulette game isn't it.

Thank you very much for your kind words of support. I suppose I'll keep writing until there are no more words in me.

Brian Campbell said...

C Dale Young a couple of years back posted some excellent things on rejection, & publication. I was looking for them a couple of weeks back, but it seems he removed them. Fortunately I saved a few of the best ones. One thing he mentioned was the Marianne Moore Rule. "MM apparently wouldn't retire a poem until it had been out 40 times. If MM can suck it up 40 times, so can I". Once you have the experience of something being turned down a dozen or more times and then being picked up by an appreciative editor,you become quite indifferent to rejection. I don't even call them "rejections", I call them returns. As often as not poems are turned back for totally extraneous reasons. You're right to try to get that validation of publication by others. I find preparation for sending out -- & seeing the poems in new formats when published -- integral to the creative & particularly the editing process. So keep it up, don't get down!

Nick said...


I guess I've led a sheltered poetic life. I've never had to send a poem out 40 times before it was accepted (let alone 20). The actual percentage of poetry that I've shelved because it wasn't picked up is quite small. Still. I admire poets who never give up on a poem.

The problem is that my MS which contains poems that were eagerly accepted by editors has not garnered any attention in a different & compound format. I'm just puzzled is all. Thanks for your support. Merci.

Brian Campbell said...

I for one didn't notice it was your book manuscript we were talking about. I think the key to getting noticed these days is prizes, prizes, prizes.

Nick said...

Therin lies the rub!

jeannine said...

My dear Nick, hmmm. I think too there is that ineffable thing that makes a manuscript a "chapbook" or "book" - not a theme (although those seem to be in style) or an arc neccessarily but something that gives the MS a sense of completeness and that those poems really are "right" together. I think about this a lot! If you look at books and chapbooks that you really enjoyed, what were the threads that helped to hold the collections together? I think sometimes I bog down my manuscripts with poems I want in there but do not belong, and that can slow an editor/reader down. Getting other people's feedback on your MS is a good way to figure that stuff out sometimes.
Also, half the game of poetry is persistance. And figuring out which editors and publishers might be friendly to your work based on what they've published before. And also,luck. So good luck, be persistant, and keep your eye out for "minds like yours" among publishers...

Nick said...

I try to put aside the manuscript for a few weeks at a time and then reread it using "new eyes" if you will. As a result I have weeded out a few poems. I've also had fellow poets comment on the MS. That has been quite useful. (I'd like more feedback but would not like to inflict any more torture on unspecting volunteers.) I suppose that there also is an arc that the publication of the MS must take before it is published. It would be safe to assume that this arc varies from MS to MS. I'll try to be persistent and keep sending it out.

Thanks for your note of encouragement, Jeannine.

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