Friday, August 19, 2005

Curious

How many times do you submit a poem before retiring it from a submission packet? Do you have a particular number in mind when you start out, or do you just keep it out there with the hope that it will be picked up? Recently I've read on a few blogs about poets submitting certain poems for 'years' or having poems picked up that were written 'years ago' and it made me curious about submission habits.

14 comments:

Ivy said...

I'm a bit random with how I send off my poems to journals. All my loves deserve good homes to live -- they just need to find the right one.

I love the latest and the best most intensely, and then that becomes more tempered as the months pass. Then I can see more clearly where a poem would fit better, or I quietly retire one when I think, well, actually, it's not as good as I thought it was.

Then again, I return to a cooled love often, and my affection for it is renewed. And then off it goes to the races once more!

But boy, doesn't postage cost a lot to find a poem its home? ;-)

Anne said...

Actually, my own pattern is not too different from Ivy's. I very seldom submit a poem that's less than two or three months old, and often they sit a little longer than that before they feel ready to go out; but as for how many times do I submit -- it depends on who's rejected it (being rejected by, say, Poetry doesn't count against it in my book) and on how much I still believe in the poem.

The poem I just had published in Poetry Midwest, "Windows," was written back in 1990(!); I forget how many rejections it's racked up over the years -- maybe not as many as you'd think, since I didn't send stuff out for about 8 years -- but it always just felt to me like a poem that should be published, so I kept sending it out. Other poems go out two or three times, then I look at them again and think "eh, this isn't really that good" and stop. And, like Ivy, I've sometimes gone back into my files and found a poem that was maybe better than I'd given it credit for originally, and start sending it out again.

It really depends. There are poems I personally love, but eventually decide they probably won't get published; sometimes I realize I love them just because the process of writing them was important or useful to me even though the poems themselves are maybe not that great in the end. There are poems I'm not as personally excited about, but which feel "publishable" for whatever reason; these I appreciate in a more distanced way than the ones I really *love* -- maybe they're decent poems, but writing them didn't really take me anywhere or move my own process along at all. If that makes any sense.

Very curious to read others' responses to this!

Patry Francis said...

As long as I still love the poem or short story myself, I will continue to submit it. Sometimes my enthusiasm is battered by a number of rejections so I put it away for a while. Then a few months or even a couple of years later, I pull it out, and damn, I still think it's good. So I start the submission process again.

Of course, all of this is when I'm in "submission mode" (sounds like some crazy sexual practice when put that way.) Lately, I haven't been.

jim said...

For me it depends on the revision process.

I might send out a poem and have it rejected (and rejected and rejected). I will stop sending it (or anything) for awhile. Then it might be years later, and I see the poem in a different light and make some changes. So I might (if I were sending out) send out the poem with the new changes.

I have some poems that are older than my children that I will still send out (the poems, not the children).

Steven D. Schroeder said...

If I believe a poem is good, I start by sending it to a really top-tier place (Poetry, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, whatever), often a no-simultaneous-submission place too since I can't do that later when the poem is out other places. Once I get the big rejection, I get more realistic about the poem and try to figure out where it has a decent shot and what other poems it might be well packaged with. Then I keep sending and sending. I usually try to gradually drop from those good upper tier places down through places that I still like but that don't have as many submissions due to less funding/prestige/etc. Sometimes I drop poems that have been out for quite a while that I'm not entirely comfortable with back into the revision folder...

Simmons B. Buntin said...

I used to have a pretty strict policy about not sending simultaneous submissions. In the next round---and it is "rounds," because I don't constantly submit; I feel like I need to pull myself together for it since it's such an administrative task---I'm going to simultaneously submit sets of four or five poems each to, say, 20 different journals. That's more of a hassle to keep up with if a poem is accepted---having to notify a journal elsewhere---but something I'll try, because as I get older I get less patient with waiting a long, long time for a poem to get a response, and of course my odds are simply higher. I don't mind waiting for it to be published once accepted, but "the waiting," as Tom Petty says, "is the hardest part" when it comes to accept/reject replies.

Sometimes sending the poem out can be part of the revision process, but to me it's more of an indication generally of whether it's ready for the public realm, since how often do editors comment in detail on poems? In my case, as an editor, I rarely comment on a specific poem.

Finally, a year or two before Riverfall finally published I sent a flurry of poems out. Most were ten years old or older. Coming back that much later definitely helped me read them in a completely new light, and so I made some revisions, and with a couple simply threw them out altogether.

gina said...

Oh. Confession time. I don't send out much. I feel as if I *should* so the whole process stresses me out and makes me feel like my priorities are misplaced, or that that poems are bad, or that I don't work hard enough, or that I'm focused too much/not enough on this whole publish or perish thing. Yeah, I've got issues. Let it end there.

When I *do* send out--about once a year--I send my more ambitious poems to the big guns who don't accept simultaneous submissions and who will keep the poem for 6-10 months anyway. I send the rest of my work out to places that accept simultaneous submissions (and say so in my cover letter), which means I might send the same poem to 10 or 20 places at once.

When that stuff comes back--and it does--I put it in a file and forget about it until I'm ready to face the sending out scene again. By that time, I've usually revised ALL of those poems heavily or dumped them, so the folder is generally useless.

It's not a good system. I don't recommend it. Someone told me once it's "suicide" not to have stuff floating around at all times. So be it. I have nothing in the mail right now.

wickedpen said...

I have a nasty tendency to submit new things that I'm excited about before the ink is even dry. Of course, then it comes back, then maybe gets tweaked and goes out again. I usually keep going until someone wants it, combining with different poems, changing things as I go (I would rarely say I have a "finished" version of anything")I only give up those poems that have somehow ceased to interest me anymore. There have only been a couple of these that just eventually wound up in the trash or have been harvested into something new.

C. Dale said...
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Suzanne said...

Thanks, Y'all!

Charles said...

I don't really have a set standard. It depends on how much I believe in a particular poem. I stopped sending out the poems from my thesis manuscript because I stopped believing in that work. I can do better than that, and I also wanted to focus on submitting work from my new ms. I'll send those around until I feel like I have a good percentage of the ms. published, and then I'll move into my next project.

In the meantime, I have a secret stash of newish work that I use for journals that don't accept simultaneous submissions. Keeps me out of trouble.

Jonathan said...

There's nothing better than having a poem accepted somewhere prestigious when it's been rejected all over.

Vindication! If you believe in a poem, keep trying the best places. Eventually it will hit the mark.

Sometimes, it is not individual poems so much as groups of poems which work. if an editor finds them all publishable, then he will feel more obliged to choose one of them for the limited space available.

Suzanne said...

Reading through these again this morning, I've come to the conclusion that....

Suzanne said...

I give up way too easily. Time to persist. Thanks, again.