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.