Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Foetal Attraction

Last week was heavy in terms of artistic rejection, even by my prodigious standards. I received the latest in a long list last night, by email. It was for a batch of poems I sent off to a magazine some weeks ago. Here is the gist,

‘I've now been able to read them several times and admire particular lines and passages in them, but am afraid that, taking each as a whole, I'm not able to accept any for publication.’

The email then goes on to suggest that aspiring contributors should buy and read their magazine thoroughly in order to acquire ‘a good idea of the kinds of poetry we publish’. So much for that singular and unique voice they are always banging on about then. Have these people got any idea how much money you’d need to buy every single one of the poetry magazines that might print your work if the whimsy takes them? Having bought them all, it would then take about 140 years to read every one. A quick glance in Borders is about as much as anyone can manage unless you feel inclined to take on a little part time drug couriering. A simple ‘I don’t like it’ would have been sufficient, or ‘space is finite and there are others I like more’, would have been positively elegant.

Of course it was polite by some standards. I’ve had ‘I don’t get it’ and ‘not at all my cup of tea’ before. It’s preferable to downright rudeness I suppose. I’ve never had an outraged response to any of my submissions but I know people who have. This happens if the editor thinks you haven’t studied their publication closely enough to develop a clairvoyant instinct for what will please them and penned to order. They can vent quite a bit of anger if they feel you’re deliberately wasting their time.

Sometimes they even warn you in advance not to dare annoy them. One publication I have approached recently, admittedly with fear and trepidation, warns not to bother the editors with,

parochial, I’ve-got-no-money ‘bed-sitter’ poems; self-consciously poetic this-is-a-poem poems; poems by people who really want to be Keats or Wordsworth; poems about what it is to write a poem, or worse, what it is NOT to be able to write one; that-man-or-woman-done-me-over poems; sweeping generalization poems - life, death and why we are here, what’s- it-all-about? poems; the use of clich├ęs like ‘sweeping generalizations’… oh and avoid' shards', 'abysses' and 'iridescence'.

I tried extremely hard not to rile these editors, but I admit that the omission of ‘life, death and why we are here’ caused me some problems as that effectively decimated my entire canon. I was forced to rework some old poems about tea cakes and wild asparagus and revise some of my word choices. I don’t think changing ‘shard’ to ‘chard’ or abysses to abscesses messed too much with the central premises of the pieces. Certainly the poems sounded more modern with these alterations without any notable deterioration of the metre and timbre in my view. It is surprising just how many poems I’ve written about funerals though and the word count on ethereal contemplation is enough to make Keats turn in his urn. I made a mental note to concentrate on developing my oeuvre in respect of utensils, The Mekong Delta and the internal combustion engine. I am sadly lacking in these areas.

Anyway, I spent the rest of last evening cutting up these individual admirable rejected lines and passages and rearranging them into a Naked Lunch which I popped into the freezer and microwaved for consumption during Loose Women this afternoon. I sometimes think that just getting by in the cutthroat world of the arts is enough to make you mould yourself into the foetal position and just go back to sleep setting your mobile to wake you when the next age of liberation and gaiety begins, sometime after the imminent ice age and, hopefully, before the invitation to attend your first Age Concern AGM arrives. I will take my leave and my quill pen and return anon…

Beautiful art from www.aotea.co.nz


andie said...

Yesss! Thanks for expressing things in a way that hits the spot. Great blog.

That's so pants said...

Thanks Andie

I got a very nice rejection today - ie one that asks for more poems. Thank you Orbis Magazine. Also big thanks to the magazines that HAVE accepted my poems recently - Obsessed with Pipework and Iota. Love ya.

Jo-Jo said...

Priceless. Good luck with getting your poems publshed!

Sybil said...

Silly publishers, they clearly don't know their arse from their elbow. If your poems are half as good as this blog, I'd buy them in an instant... Although actually, am broke, so will probably just read them in Borders. But, well, intent to consume is there! And a magazine called 'Obsessed with Pipework(!) does sound very tempting.

That's so pants said...

Thanks so much everyone. Sybil - Obsessed with Pipework is a fab mag - hello Charles! As far as I'm concerned it's the best because it took three of my poems - to be published next Spring. Follow this link to look at what poetry mags are available to read on line www.poetrymagazines.org.uk.