Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Journal Experiment: Cracking Poetry's Code

One of my glorious correspondents sent this insider information about getting her work into POETRY magazine. Part of the secret, it seems, is persistence, but not just any ol' kind. Many authors interpret persistence as "sending the same thing again and again." (These souls are often of the "I'm a genius, but those idiot editors can't recognize it" school.) Instead, my correspondent intelligently made the assumption that most successful journal editors actually know what they're doing, and s/he adjusted accordingly.

"Like all poets, I have hazarded a submission to POETRY magazine. Like all poets, I received my generic rejections--three times over. I crossed paths with the editor and sent again, hopeful; again, rejected (though gracefully, with a personal note, by which I mean a hand-scribbled sentence). When I sent again, I stacked the deck: a long poem, a formally acrobatic poem, an ekphrasis. I'm not sure if there's any particular code-cracking to POETRY--as safes go, it is dynamite-proof--but somehow, I made it in. Three poems forthcoming! (She says, before fainting in exhaustion and relief.)"

Besides the "I'm a genius" assumption, many authors come to me after one or two rejections, heart-in-hand, crushed that they weren't loved enough to be published (yet). Huh? I usually smile and say I don't want to hear any complaints until at least rejection number 30. Authors tend to exaggerate the number of times they actually tried, and they also think that rejections are even remotely personal. In fact, they're so impersonal that unless you made a particularly strong impression for some reason, you can probably try again in a week with no fear of even being recognized, let alone spotted as "That doofwad dreamer we so wisely bounced last time."

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