Sunday, May 29, 2011
we're just like you, only prettier
I never wanted to be a poetry hater, one of those old fuddy duddies who bemoans that all the best poetry has already been written, bitches about MFA programs and the absolute glut of poets. I've really always been of the more the merrier opinion. And there is so much to love (as you see by the overflowing dgp schedule, sometimes I love too much.) So much good work coming past me in the form of submissions, books, chapbooks, blog entries, small and online journals. And so while I am engaged with that work, and that's what drives me to make my life among words, I also can't help but see the sort of work that's published in the more well-known and established journals and something isn't right. I stumbled upon some poems of one of the most famous of all poetry journals and decided to read a sample poem from the latest issue and..well...meh. It wasn't awful, and lord knows there is also an abundance of bad poems out there, some of my own, but to be completely honest, I would have rejected it without pause had it come across my desk for dgp or wicked alice.
Why? It was one of those I came, I observed, I had epiphany sort of poems, basically prose broken up into lines, short ones, with no attention to language as material. I've ranted about this before, and last night, came upon an old blog entry where I talked about narrative and conveyance thereof. I can't stand those sort of poems, have spent most of my life as a writer moving away from those poems. And yet so many poets I know are trying to get their work into said journal, sad over rejections from it, with no idea that they are simply way too awesome to ever be in it, especially if it continues to publish mediocrity. Probably too awesome that the readers for said journal just don't get it. Of course, I like to think such things boil down to personal taste, that what they publish is just not my thing, but I can't help but feel, I hate to say it, but we (and I mean me and the staff of more like-minded press/journals) simply have better taste. :P
Of course, maybe the nugget of writerly wisdom in all this is to pay attention to the markets you are trying to get into. I submitted for years to the New Yorker back between 1996 and 2000 until I realized that my target audience for poetry was not likely to be the high-brow Lexus driving crowd (only later with a better trained eye did I realize the badness of some of what they publish). Similarly, if you read a journal, no matter how famous, how established, how exclusive, look at what they are publishing. Would you want to have written those poems? Do you love the authors contained in its pages? Do you think it's a good fit with your aesthetics or are you just looking for a shiny publication credit no matter what the journal is passing off as "contemporary poetry"? Things to think about...