Somewhere between my ankles becoming cankles and my shoulders pinching, I begin rocking back and forth to ease the pain that has settled into my glutes. I have lost track of how long I have been sitting on the couch, clicking on journal after journal after journal after journal on Submittable. I completed 22 submissions in one marathon, evening session. With weariness and pain, came audacity. No longer was I titling my submissions “one poem” or “callous” or “a smattering of poetry” or even “tres poems”. I actually titled entries “The Madea Collection” or “i plucked my chin for this?” In the light of a new day, I pause and wonder, does that boldness come from frustration or arrogance? I certainly don’t FEEL as if I am the greatest poet who has never been read, but when I DO read the poem that won the poetry contest (that I entered and heard ZILCH about ending or not being chosen), I’m a bit crestfallen and more than a smidgen disappointed. “REALLY? THIS won?” Sigh. I don’t consider myself an enemy of art either. I pride myself with the ability to read another poet’s work and understand why they were chosen for the publication over my own (usually meager and scrappy) writing in comparison. Shelly Longbottom is absolutely FANTASTIC. I think we all recognize that. But when I read this particular poem for that particular competition, I was nothing short of disgruntled and soured. Talk about “jarring” line breaks. Sigh.
I have known for a long time that poetry is the single most subjective form of writing that exists. Reading the contest winning poem confirmed that for me. With prose, a writer has to have a sense of story and character development. Their style is determined by word choice, dialogue, description and other devices that help build suspense. There is a reason Stephen King insists writers kill their darlings; it is to make sure writers understand and (at the minimum) adequately get to the crux of their story. Yes, in prose, there are differences of opinion as to what differentiates the brilliant from the mediocre from the absolute terrible. In my previous blog, I admitted a preference for literature and unique voice with poetic description over the cookie cutter, popular variety (Plath over popular, formulaic writing). Yet with poetry, it’s much more muddled and murky.
The rejections I am currently receiving are along the lines of “you don’t SUCK and there is some merit / worth here, but it’s not quite right for the minuscule amount of space we have reserved for the one poem we will publish in the current edition of our publication that only comes out 3 times a year”. Or “we enjoyed reading your work but it doesn’t fit in with our theme of ‘wilting daffodils and dilapidated fences’ that we didn’t mention we were looking for, but we WERE looking for and you should’ve KNOWN this was the unspoken theme for our current issue”. Sigh. Yet, these kinds of rejections give me some reassurance that I don’t suck as a poet so much; I am just not what these places are looking for, due to a myriad of reasons. I believe that usually these nuances determining the haves from the have-nots boil down to style. If an editor prefers prose poetry or the all too trendy Milk and Honey variety of poetry, I’m out of luck. Majority of publications on Submittable, open for submissions, are bare bones about their requirements. I have found that as much as I appreciate this vague openness when I am submitting like a fiend, I do have deeper appreciation for journals that are pin point specific about what they are looking for, especially when they have an incredibly narrow idea of what will work for their publication. It makes it easier to scroll on by, not wasting my time and energy with the submission process so that I can continue the search for a place that may be more fitting. Though, I do have to confess that some publications that tout their openness to promoting/publishing the unique voices of unpublished writers are not always accurate either. I’ve been declined from my fair share of journals that have stated they like “dark, edgy, quirky” work that is “outside the box” or “pushes boundaries” just to find out these publications are actually easily offended, rather trendy and traditional. Sigh.
Submittable is still a very strange place to venture off to; a place I still don’t entirely understand. Nine total rejections (eight on Submittable and one via email where the editor took the time to say some extra kind and thoughtful words encouraging me to continue to seek publication for my work). Currently 37 active submissions. Submittable is not for the insecure or doubtful writer. This game has no manual nor real path to victory. Best thing I can figure is writers should not allow the opinion of others to waver their confidence. Writers have to believe in their art and voice, to continue to revise and edit their work and to continue to submit the hell out of their work. Writers have to know they were always writers and stop saying they WANT to become REAL writers.
Who knows? Maybe one day I will stumble upon the correct theme, using the correct style at the correct time for the correct journal and happenstance will bring me the elusive byline. It isn’t as exciting a thought as it was three months ago. I realize that even if that does happen, it is only ONE publication. The process must continue, being published multiple times in journals no one seems to be reading, until I too have the same mediocre status of “published writer” in spite of the fact most of the world has no idea who I am, just like Shelly Longbottom. I haven’t done the research, but am guessing that I have a better chance of an alien spaceship powered by yeti being the rescue team to save me from a great white shark attack than I do of being struck by lightning or being a hugely successful published writer. Thankfully, this is not the reason why I write. Who knows, with all this coffee I’ve been drinking, the posthumous publication of my non-award winning poetry may be closer than expected.
Warning: This blog may cause drowsiness that may lead one to drink copious amounts of coffee. Coffee may cause cancer.
Additional Warning: Submittable may cause hemorrhoids or very intense and real pain in the posterior, as well as anxiety, bouts of madness, self-doubt, depression and utter hysteria. Standing and walking to get coffee may help alleviate intense symptoms.
Or, as Green Day says, “Warning…live without warning…”
Write on, nerds!