Thursday, August 18, 2005

Editing, Editors, Comments, Bias

So Tony is tied as one of the most successful rejects at Little Emerson. Congrats Tony! Actually, I think it's pretty cool that some of the editors recognized his work -- it means he has a strong voice. Soon we'll all be writing T-Rob-style poems. Move over Ashbery. Move over Tate. Here's something leaner to imitate.

I was going to say "sincere to imitate" but I don't wish to attack the sincerity of Ashbery or Tate, so I'll stick with my Sizzlelean rip-off. Perhaps I should go against and say "meatier to imitate" -- last time I saw Tate and Ashbery they were kind of scrawny. But then Tony would yell and say "Are you calling me fat? I just lost 20 pounds!" There's no real way to get out of this gracefully, so I'll just stop abruptly.

It's times like these I feel like a dude.

A few months back I sent three poems to Little Emerson. They were poems that were rejected by countless editors over the years, poems I still thought were pretty good so I was hoping to hear some feeback from these anonymous editors. The poems were rejected and I never heard a single reason. Guess I'll keep wondering.

I agree with C. Dale that I probably wouldn't like a poem that so many editors could agree on either. My favorite publications are edited by one or a small group of editors, publications that pursue a kind of "vision" something more than "this is good" (which my publication has been attributed with doing -- sure we do, but we like to think we're doing a lot more than that). Publications with work voted on by committee (which isn't quite the case at Little Emerson because editors don't discuss the poems amongst each other) tend to be not especially interesting. It's difficult to agree on anything except perhaps the bland.

Ok, yeah, there are some exceptions. If your publication has 20 editors all voting on the same poems, don't write and tell me I suck. Your publication rocks.

OK, it doesn't rock. I just don't want to argue about it.

Or maybe I'm bitter because my poems never stand a chance in committee votes. I think my threshold is three editors. If there's four or more editors making the decision my poem will definitely be voted down.

I've had a few friends offer to help at No Tell -- offer to read through the slush pile, etc. I always decline their generous offers. Not because I think they don't have anything useful to contribute and not because I have an unlimited amount of time to work on No Tell. I sure the hell don't. But it wouldn't be No Tell Motel if I wasn't reading every single submission. Work I would love would never find it's way to me or I would have a pre-disposed bias from other editors' comments. Poems I wouldn't be especially fond of would be given more consideration because "everyone else loved them -- what am I missing?"

It's natural to have biases. Reading some of the reasons editors gave for not taking Tony's poems made me think "that's a stupid reason for not liking a poem" yet I have my own list of stupid biases too. That's why I like working with Molly. She's chopped full of biases herself, but they're often different than mine. Since there's only two of us, we can't gang up on each other, form coalitions, bully, etc. Instead we slap sense into each other. We're each other's shit detectors.

Hmm, that kind of takes out all the romance, doesn't it?


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