Saturday, August 15, 2020

rejection junction, what's your function?

Typically, my Saturday mornings start out with breakfast.  Since I've gone back to the library and my morning routine is a bit more rushed, I've saved the more elaborate breakfasts for the weekend--bacon and an omelette, or maybe french toast. Coffee of course, and hot when I have a little more time to make it in the french press. I was a little spoiled during quarantine I to sleep to my leisure,  make breakfast, then start working. It would have been lovely if not for the constant anxiety and doomscrolling.  Nevertheless, I now save my more leisured starts for the days I have off, and Saturdays are always writing days. 

Well maybe that's a misnomer.  I've been trying to write daily--and while every day may not happen--I'm about 4/7. Which is as good and productive as I need to be, especially since the poems tend to pile up regardless. Saturdays are more for fine tuning and revising, pulling projects or manuscripts together. Checking statuses on submissions and sending more stuff out. For planning out promo for books and making weird little poem videos.  Today, I'll be printing up the poets zodiac later on and getting the first copies assembled. Maybe "writing business" day is a better description. 

As I was perusing my submissions, another no  from a journal in my email, I puzzled over my recent rejection streak.  I've long ago gotten used to rejection, the fate of being a writer being that you will get rejected more than you will be accepted. I myself send out endless rejections as an editor.  Mostly, they may not be a commentary on the work itself at all--more whether or not I really liked it enough to move to the top of the pile, to stand out as desirable in a sea of other poems.  I would say 70-80 percent of what I get is publishable.  It comes down to whether it shines above the others whether I choose it for the upcoming year.  Which is of course, completely subjective and outside of work that is just unapologetically bad, is completely subject to editorial whim.  

My puzzlement was less that I was rejected, of course,  but more that it caused me to question whether or not my appraisal of my own work is entirely accurate. If you asked me any given day, I would tell you that the stuff I've written in the past two years is the strongest I've every written--both thematic-wise and technical proficiency-wise.  I am better at yielding image and sound than I ever was. When I compare them to past work, they are so shiny, but what I don't know, and what rejection causes me to question, is whether they actually ARE, or whether I just think so because they are the newest apples fallen from the tree. These particular poems, from "extinction event," are particular points of pride..not all of them were genius, or even necessary, but after a culling, what is there is very strong. . 

And it may be entirely that people are tired of armageddon poems in this armageddonish world. But it was similar with "swallow" which I think is one of the best things I've written, but barely even a nibble. There were years where I was writing rather okay-ish poems and they were snatched up immediately.  But then again, I can't remember if I thought those poems were especially shiny at the time.  Journals always encourage writers to send their best work, but I think I usually wind up carving longer series into submission batches sort of randomly, so there might be a couple really sexy poems, and a couple that just follow along, but are necessary for the whole of the project.  What's even weirder is when those wallflower poems get picked up leaving the sexy ones behind.  This happens often, which then causes me to question whether i really know what's good at all in my own work. 

And maybe we ARE poor judges. I've written many a bad poem that made me cringe later. I like to think I moved out of that in my 30's and beyond, but it still occasionally happens.  The difference now, I suppose, is that the rotten apples are easier to spot and chuck from the basket before anyone sees them. 


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