Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reb Livinston has written a couple of excellent posts, one on contests a week or so back that I meant to mention, and today, another on submitting and dealing with submissions. One the whole, my dealings with poets in regard to work they send to wicked alice and dgp have been good. There was one incident I remember of sending a rejection to a guy and getting this angry immediate criticism of my taste and editorial choices, to which I responded, very kindly and politely, that I actually liked his poems and would absolutely have taken them but they didn't fit the thematic emphasis of the journal. Oddly he backed down. Then there was a little squabbling over the local issue guidelines last year .. I hate to say it, but bad behavior tends to, in about nine out of ten cases, to come from the guys (sorry boys, but it's true), which we don't deal with as much given the project of the journal. But then the guys we deal with regularly an publish are cool as hell, so I hate to stereotype (about 10% of our subs come from male poets). I'd be interested to hear what other editors have experienced. Or to speculate WHY this is the case.

My own response to rejection is either to try again if it's something I really want to get into, or to just stop sending work if it seems a hopeless cause for whatever reason, not to get angry and file off attacks to the editors. When I think I've sent work that has been given the shaft, I still realize are so many variables: maybe the editor was sick of poems about x or y, or hates poems in couplets. Or it just didn't click immediately. Or maybe one editor loved it and two others hated it. Maybe it was just like everything they'd seen before. Maybe it wasn't. In my case, editors have occasionally taken poems because the subject matter, as opposed to technical splendor, appeals to them, or so they've told me. So often editors take the filler poems, you know, the ones you don't think are quite as brilliant, as the one you really want them to publish, but are still sound publishable poems, but really do a good job filling the envelope.

Why I personally take a poem is also a combination of variables. Subject matter, voice, authority, if it's different from ten other poems I've seen and rejected in that sitting. I try not to read cover letters or bios or to let them sway me, though if someone whose name I recognize and I respect their work, I'm apt to pass it along to second round. Ditto people who we've published before. But I love finding that person who I've never heard of, or who's barely published a thing.

I like being published, I like getting work out there, but some people are rabid about it, fiendishly blanketing editors with submissions and then responding like jackasses when they're told no. Get a life. If one journal won't publish your work, eventually you'll probably find someone who will love it. And if you're really bad, you still might find someone to publish you given the number of journals hungry for competant, if not excellent, work. Submitting is part numbers game anyway, sending the right thing at the right time. Don't take it so freaking seriously.


Christopher said...

I can only recall one bitter reject
while editing issue 19 of CPR, and it was some "who has been published in The Paris Review" and is sorry if they didn't write "experimental and edgy work" and was ultimately glad that our "[shitty]" journal didn't take the poems because "better places" could take them. The cherry: "my [spouse] thanks you, my kids thank you, my dog thanks you, and my ficus thanks you."

I don't think it matters which sex the writer is, but in our case it was a woman. I always get a good ab workout whenever I think of her, and it reminds me to stay...not bitter. Instead, I weep on my blog because writing out the frustration there makes me okay and able to move on outside computerland.

In your case, I think you get bitter men more often because you're aesthetics/intentions are so clear, overtly doing (and I'm not denigrating your mag) what nearly all journals do implicitly. You're celebrating womanhood, but at the same time you're giving an unintentional(?)finger to men--unless they conform.

As a man,and I consider myself to be a feminist, I'm in a corner because I'm happy for you, Brandi, etc., but I do not like those journals that limit who can participate in them. Yes, all journals are narrowing their readership through aesthetic and the staffs' subjective choices, but I can see where people become outwardly bitter towards places that have strict agendas. I mean, bitching at the editors and sending hate mail is a juvenile/unconstructive way of showing their disagreeance, but part of me knows that exclusionary practices do not level the playing field. And whether you have johnson or a va-jay-jay you still get upset when you see that your particular make up doesn't even have a chance.

It's like going into Niemann Marcus in cargo shorts and a tee and knowing they don't accept you--even if you're good enough. Whatever that means.

wickedpen said...

"my ficus thanks you?" I love it! It'd be hard to get too upset over that I imagine.

I was thinking if someone were to openly found a male only journal it would be very gutsy somehow. Given the double standard, a few hundred years of oppression, and political correctness brouhaha—somehow it’s perfectly acceptable to start a women-only space, but a male-only space would seen as sexist somehow to a lot of people. And maybe it would be in motive —you can’t exactly say you’re standing up to the female regime, the dreaded matriarchy. But it could happen, maybe as a way to “celebrate manhood” or whatever. Though on the other side, I’m one of the first to get riled up whenever I see women being shafted and excluded in places that CLAIM to be a level playing field. The thing is that it’s not so much that male poets don’t have a chance, even in a journal that limits itself to only women, which we don’t, but that it’s just a different playing space. I see an anthology of Asian-American poets, poets from the South , and I’m not feeling slighted because I can’t play. It might just be a symptom of growing up in an age when identity politics are so engrained in our psyche. I actually agree with you on exclusion not leveling the playing field, which is why our guidelines say we publish women-focused work moreso than just work by women, in a sense making it more a themed journal. For me, the dissemination of poetry by and about women is a project of sorts, much in the way one editor might publish only haiku, or only ekphrastic poems, or only poems about fairytales. Again, if I don’t write these sort of poems, or fit the profile of their poets, I’m not bitter. Somehow, because of gender issues, it seems much more loaded and people seem to get more upset about it.