Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Submissions and Reading

I haven’t submitted poems anywhere for a while, although I still have batches out at various places that tend to take a few months to make their decisions – Chapman, The Rialto, Poetry London.

Over the past year or two, I’d been sending out far more poems than I used to, but I now reflect that over-zealous submission can become almost a game, with no apparent end. You end up publishing poems that aren’t your best in mediocre zines, or at least zines undiscerning enough to publish the kind of poems you sent them.

But maybe that’s wrong. Perhaps submission, and the accompanying acceptances/rejections, show you that poems you assumed had value weren’t good enough, and poems you thought unremarkable had an appeal greater than you realised.

In any case, I’m enjoying my reading material at the moment – three books simultaneously, and all brilliant:

The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly – Denis Johnson (HarperPerennial, 1995)

Poems of Fernando Pessoa – translated Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown (City Lights, 1998)

My Noiseless Entourage – Charles Simic (Harcourt 2005)

5 comments:

Andrew Philip said...

"Perhaps submission, and the accompanying acceptances/rejections, show you that poems you assumed had value weren’t good enough, and poems you thought unremarkable had an appeal greater than you realised."

I don't know, Rob. There is an element of that, but different readers, among whom are the editors to whom we submit, react differently to the same poem. Plus, some good poems need the wider context of a collection of whatever length for their full effect. It's not that they are weaker poems being pulled up by stronger ones--something that Matthew Hollis told us to be wary of on the Arvon course--but that they are part of a wider conception of subject matter or style that needs a cumulative effect. That's just another way of writing.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this as the poems pour in for the edition of Magma I'm guest editing. I can only choose a few dozen poems out of maybe ten thousand. I'm going to publish the poems I like best, and not necessarily those I think the readers will like best. It would be different if I was editing a journal every issue, as I think the taste of a single editor can narrow the focus of a publication very substantially.

I got some poems today which I thought were good - well-written, fresh perspective, crisp style. But not to my taste at all, so I will not consider them further - my simple point being that just because a poem is k-b'ed, does not mean it is not good!

Roddy

Cailleach said...

See, he just proved what I was going to say, which is that editors like what they like, no more than that. What is good, is someone's (very) considered opinion (I always think of Eamon DeValera when I use that phrase)ultimately.
It's a hard thing to quantify, subjectivity.

Rob said...

Yes, I agree with all that really, although I suppose if a poem is rejected again and again, it might be worth at least to consider that it's got problems.

I've gone through my very large 'currently-unsubmitted-poems' folder and removed about three-quarters of them, perhaps more, to a new 'outer-darkness' folder. At least that means I'll now only be submitting stuff that I, at least, consider my best material.

Perhaps if editors reject these ones, I'll later send them my 'outer-darkness' poems, which of course they will immediately rush to publish!

Cailleach said...

You'd be surprised what people like - never what you think they would!