Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thanks for Taking My Crap!

It's no secret that most poetry publications receive a shit ton of submissions. If you somehow didn't know this, please take my word. I get more submissions in a few weeks than I could use for an entire year. Yeah, some of the submissions range from terrible to pretty weak, but a lot range from pretty good to pretty darn good and a small percentage are downright awesome.

Sometimes when Molly and I turn down work we get a nasty response or find a blog post regarding our dip-shit assholey taste and how we wouldn't know a great poem if one squatted on our chubby gruesome faces.

Ok, fine. I don't like reading that stuff and when I come across it, I don't soon forget, but at least I understand the root of such comments. Rejections sting.

But what I don't understand is when I come across a response (often on somebody's blog, occasionally in the e-mail replying to an acceptance) where the poet exclaims she can't believe we took her crappy work or that we must be small potatoes if we picked those poems.

WTF? An editor never wants to read that. That's not being modest, that's being insulting to the editor and magazine. She just spent the day declining 20 pretty good to pretty darn good submissions, her wee little heart aching and then finds somebody who gets the rare chance (less than 5% of all submissions!) to appear in her magazine publicly scoffing it. Oy. OK, I'll chalk that up to inexperience, especially since this is a first time publication and there's the whole "youth" factor (I'm in my mid-30's and somebody's mother, I can say mother fucking kids these days!) -- but note, editors google their magazines -- think about what you're publicly posting. It will get back to them.

And that's far from the worst infraction -- the worst has to be a reviewer (professor one assumes has been around the block a few times) of a certain book who felt he had to be open about his work appearing in a certain magazine. Ok, fine, I'm all about transparency. But suggesting, no stating the possibility that the book's editor took his "crummy" work in order to garner a favorable review (that slam! she didn't get anyway) and how she put him in a quandry -- that wasn't cool. Especially considering he claimed to forget all about sending the magazine poems a mere four days before said editor followed the directions on review's website that explicitly said to e-mail him. Or how he specifically instructed the editor to send the review copy directly to him and not the general review address (giving the book a chance to be considered by the rest of the review staff) since he very much wanted to do it himself.

But hey, why stop at insulting her editorial taste for taking your work? Insinuate she's so sneaky and fake, she'll do ANYTHING for a good review. Even publish you!

Whew, that's been eating me for about ten months.

How about these brilliant suggestions:

1. Never send work you believe is "crummy"
2. If you do not follow suggestion #1, never tell the editor or publicly announce accepted work is "crummy"
3. Unless your whole point is some weird "Hah hah gotcha -- you'll publish any dreck" and in that case, don't bother sending intentionally crummy expose poems -- instead go fuck yourself.


At 8:46 AM, Blogger didi said...

Reb - If I came across someone like that over at my joint - they wouldn't get published. Oh yeah did I say mention that they would not be published? Yes I did by golly. Not even if their work is pulitzer prize material. And not only that. If someone ever sends me a nasty email -- note - post on their blog - they also will go on the same list and that means that we do not review them, have them mentioned on any of my productions, etc. And everyone that is part of the joint is notified for future reference.

Yes sometimes I actually move and forgive and forget but this could take years.

Didi Menendez

(P.S. I am glad I am making this public)

At 8:51 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

Reb, I feel your pain. After over a decade of editing poetry for a journal, I have had to stomach an unthinkable amount of "poets behaving badly." About 4 years ago, I decided to stop trying to turn the other cheek, so to speak. Now, I just make note of who behaves badly. I know a lot of editors. And I have a mouth. We talk. It is surprising because the same folks come up over and over again. They are pathologic.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger didi said...

I think the same people that are on my list are on Dale's list. Maybe we should all get together and share our lists....


At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In defense of some of these people who say they didn't send their best stuff and who complain about not getting in journals:

1.. Poets as a whole are notoriously odd, cranky, and sometimes mentally unstable.
2. These complainers are entertaining and bring fire/life to the community. If everyone was well-behaved, how boring would that be? Not everyone should or can be a solid citizen; isn't that what poetry is an escape from?
3. Sometimes these comments motivate the complainers to change their lives and their writing. I feel their complaints are symptoms more of what's lacking in their lives/work; and maybe expressing it will lead to positive changes for themselves.
4. There's a long history of poets' feuds, bad behavior, etc. It's not going to change.
5. Any feedback, negative or positive, can possibly change things for the better.

I don't think they're right, I just feel this kind of behavior is to be expected and that poetry is not a business, but a rowdy community of angels and assholes.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Don, well, I've bitched about rejections and editors plenty of times -- in private -- to trusted friends. There are lots of reasons I started a magazine, none of them are to set myself up as an unstable, cranky poet's punching bag. When I am insulted, I never forget it and I never publish that person again -- and while I'm sure there are a handful of "angel" editors who accept and put up with a great deal of abuse -- I am not one of those editors. So sure, I can expect the occasional attack, they can expect one less place where their work is considered.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Reb said...

I suppose all I can say is that most poetry editors are poets themselves and no stranger to rejection. If one doesn't want to deal with editors, the people who do all the work of getting poetry read, doing that work for almost always no pay, doing work that eats up time spent that could be spent on their own poems -- one can always avoid the middleman and self-publish.

Frustration gone.

If one desires the sense of validity that comes from an editor choosing his work, well, rejection is always part of the game, no matter what past accomplishments may be.

And when you find an editor who does want to promote your work, my god, don't diminish what they're doing. That's like accepting a date with someone and then tacking on, "Of course I realize the only reason you asked *me* out is because you're no prize yourself and likely can't do any better."

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear reb,
Just to comment on your thoughts about said blogger blogging in way which you might not have her blog: not forgetting what happened is completely your right, and more than understandable. Refusing to let go of it however, seems like an extreme reaction, especially if you like and respect the work of the poet. To be honest, I am close friends with the poet in question. We were even roommates in college, and I would just like to vouch for said poet's character. It is intact and amazing and still finding its roots. Do not condemn this writer without knowing her! Please take the time to open up the exchange, it won't cost you anything, and said poet can learn so much from it.

At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A poet who bitches and moans that their poems got accepted? Adjust the medication. Poets should be happy their work is accepted for publication...period.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Argenta, the poet who you are referring to was not penalized for her comments and we have already discussed and moved past it. I brought it up here here to discuss the general topic and say things that need to be said -- not focus on the actions of one person (notice I did not link to any posts or call anyone out by name).

At 9:02 PM, Blogger didi said...

I like Collin's response. I wonder how many writers send us notes when they are intoxicated. That may be a different subject altogether.

I also get sometimes the weirdest author photos. I have had to ask for replacements a few times.


At 9:34 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Just a note on my historical revisionism -- I removed a comment made by Don because it mentioned the name of someone who sometimes self-googles and sends me abusive e-mails. It was only removed to avoid that scenerio from happening again, for no other reason than that.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger bill said...

I get the same crap with moria, the e-zine I edit. I feel your pain.


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