Monday, August 1, 2011

Contests & Competition

I took the big (for me) step of submitting a few poems to a contest and a few more to an open call for submissions to a small press.  I haven't submitted anything for publication in 30 years or so when I had the temerity to send my works to Poetry and American Poetry Review.  My rejection notices commented that my style was clever, but scattered, or some such.

Yesterday I was jumping around like a bug on a hot rock, hastily editing and formatting poems to email by deadlines of August 1st.  I felt as though I were submitting tax forms.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that I had "done it right."  Today I wonder what all my anxiety was about.  I felt the fear of judgment, that my work wouldn't be "good enough."  I felt the fear of finality--is this the final edit, or could this poem use more polishing?  So, I'm left with questions about what I want, why am I doing what I do.  I don't have high hopes of "winning."  It was important for me to just take this step and see what happens. 

I was pushed into doing this by a friend who is always telling me to submit my work, that my imagistic style is what the market wants.  I don't know.  What is the market?  Is it a closed system of incestuous MFA logrolling?    I think online blogging has changed my market.  I enjoy reading and following blogs.  Small press and self-publishing seem to make sense.  If you have an online following, why not sell them your chapbook?  Why not find a like-minded soul who can illustrate it?  

Anyway, curious about other's thoughts on this.  Yesterday, I felt as though I were sending my children off into the netherworld without sweaters or galoshes, but today I am thinking, "What's the big deal?"  Either I get published by a small press or a magazine, or I don't.  Does that change what I want to do?
I still want to work on my craft.  Posting online and getting feedback and support and reading other blogs is the most helpful poetry workshop I've been in.  
I'll be pulling some poems from my blog that I've submitted.  Thank you all for reading and commenting.


  1. I hope the work you submitted is well received and published, and you win! Your work is incredible, and if they don't choose it, I believe it's because there is so much great work out there, and as you say, the criteria for choosing what is in or out are quite subjective.

    I've come to much the same place as what you've written here about submitting and getting published. As you saw from my post yesterday, I'm working on a self published book. The reasons I'm doing that is that family and online friends have asked for it, and frankly I just want to have a book with my poems in it. It doesn't have to be a 'real' publisher. For me, the online support and feedback is filling my need for closing the loop. I love the small community of writers whose work I admire, and this back and forth we have. I've been thrilled to find you, and Brendan, erin, Hedgewitch, and a few others.

    The problem is that there are too many creative writers for the number of readers. So if we find a group we're happy with, that is the point, for me at least.

    I love Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris' for the voluptuous community of the Lost Generation, for artists and writers to hang out and support each others work. No doubt it had its annoyances (as blogging can), but I'd love that kind of inspiration and impetus. We get a good taste of that here.

  2. who can say what is the market and what is the final edit. there are no such.
    there are thousands of magazines out there, run by thousands of editor who appreciate and look for different things and styles the same way we write differently in different times.

    but sending out is a good process for developing the writing, or so i feel; the endless (or in my case the barely non) editorial changes and thinking of the poems. and once in a while the acceptance letter/mail awaiting there in the mailbox or on the screen - one cannot deny it is a great feeling.

    Good luck

  3. Good luck MJ -- I heartily agree with all you've said. I stopped attempting to submit poems back in the mid-90s. Traditional publishing is so different than what has evolved online; in the former, you try to convince some ghostly gatekeeper that your work is worthy enough to be read by even ghostlier readers who, unless you become quite successful, you will never hear a peep from. Here each of us is our own gatekeeper and there is immediate satisfaction of feedback. Of course, there is the danger that so much unpolished stuff gets out and so much feedback is of the "uh, liked it" variety; but to have, as Ruth says, online is best when a circle of genuine poets enjoy reading each others work. I am so glad you are submitting stuff, because you truly are one of the better poets writing anywhere today. You may not convince the Gatekeepers of that, but then their outposts are growing ghostlier by the year. I gave up on the careerism of poetry long ago -- what point does that serve, other than a selfish one? Still I'm gathering work for a chapbook of some sort, to be self-published I guess. Those vehicles may prove poetry's richest vein. And, as Ruth says, the market is flooded with writers, product I guess of so many MFA programs and the like. Too much cultural fashion in the academies though, fashions which the Gatekeepers tend (another reason why you should never feel bad about a rejection slip) ... Once again, good luck. U rock. - Brendan

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments.
    I woke up the other night thinking, "Oh! I should have put a comma in that line!" But, the poems have been submitted and all is well. My paying job is crazy busy right now and keeping me from being around here much. Ruth, I'm looking forward to seeing "Midnight in Paris" when I have the time. Thanks for the reminder.
    And, Brendan & Ruth, looking forward to a chapbook from you both!

  5. jane, i think it's wonderful and yet unnecessary. in my opinion you are a well established writer. but is it for a sense of validation from without, for i understand this as i have this desire, to be validated by some third party and notable. but yet i know it makes no sense. and yet it lives inside of me, this desire. and yet i am validated here. and yet, and yet.

    i was turned down on every piece i sent out last year. the year before i published a piece in a book and i have never looked at the book. i cringe to think of it. and so what does it really mean? is it only ego? and yet, and yet.

    and so i wish you luck. i wish you all the luck there is for you already have the skill. i believe in you as i believe in ruth and brendan. i believe too, one way or another, i will hold each of your books and i will feel fuller for it.

    now what of myself? and yet, and yet.