Every now and then I get up a bit of gumption and submit my work to various entities, like magazines, contests, etc. I had a setback this week: the piece I submitted for inclusion in an anthology, one of my personal favorite things I’ve written, didn’t make the final cut. But I saw the names of the poets who did, and there is some really top-notch talent in that list, people whose work I know and respect. There is no shame in not getting picked over folks like Celisa Steele, Alan Michael Parker, or Daniel Nathan Terry; not to mention very talented local folks like Susan Laughter Myers and Brit Washburn.
I also recognize that these things are always subjective: it’s about how your poem hits that reader on that particular day, and in the context of all the other stuff he or she has read or is reading. There’s reasons you can’t possibly account for: a painter I know, who has entered and won loads of contests, pointed out that sometimes the judges will think, “a landscape has won the past two years, so we can’t have another….” So no matter how good your piece was, it’s out of contention. I would hate to have the job of selecting poems in a contest or open submission process like that; my proverbial hat is off to those folks.
Still, it’s easy to know all these things and yet feel disappointment. There’s a great emotional investment you can’t help but make, plus there’s the time and often the money involved. I am extending myself and seeking the approval of others — something well outside of my comfort zone. It’s not unlike finally working up the nerve to ask that cute girl for a date and getting turned down.
I’ll keep trying. At the risk of sounding petty and sour grapey, I’ve seen the kind of dreck that is getting published these days (it will serve no purpose to give examples here, but maybe in a future post). If that’s what the poetry world is looking for, I’m not writing it. But it makes me angry enough to accumulate the rejection slips that all writers receive. I refuse to believe that I’m never going to succeed.