So, that response to a submission I was waiting for a few weeks ago? I got it, and it’s a no. But it’s about the nicest no that I’ve ever received—so nice, in fact, that it’s difficult to have my usual twenty minutes of bitterness about it.
I’ve found that there is a sliding scale of rejection in the poetry world. The lowest, and the harshest, is the form rejection. Usually about a quarter of a sheet of paper, it’s got the letterhead of wherever you submitted, and a polite form letter indicating that due to the volume of their submissions/overall excellence of submitted writing/(implied crappiness of your writing), there isn’t room for your work in their next edition. If you open a letter and are greeted by “Dear Poet,” you know instantly that you’re screwed.
The next step up is the same form letter, but with a handwritten note of some kind. This is the middle ground, so there’s the biggest scope for variety. Sometimes it’s just a quick scribble of “Nice but not for us”; sometimes there will be constructive comments on what you submitted. Especially encouraging are the ones that ask you to submit again.
Until now, the next step up for me has been the jump to an acceptance letter. But this latest response is a full-on letter from the editor of where I submitted, saying how much he enjoyed the poetry but due to market/funding constraints, they can’t publish me. He also suggested a few other places I might go with it. On the one hand, it’s tremendously encouraging—this was the first “la la la if I’m submitting I might as well submit to the best publisher around” foray on my part, so to get a response that my poems went over well is great. But then again, if the reason for a no is “we like your poetry but we can’t sell it,” that’s a MUCH more ominous note for future submissions. (And trust me, if someone in the business of poetry tells you something isn’t profitable THEY ARE NOT KIDDING.)
Not that all that will stop me from submitting elsewhere. It’s already out, as a matter of fact. (I have brief moments of productivity, interspersed amongst long periods of whining about how I should be writing and submitting more.) And despite the note of DOOM POETRY DOOM, it’s still a very nice, very encouraging letter. So once more unto the postal breach, dear friends…