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Willpower and Stamps

One thing I still can’t get used to about the life poetic is the very random rate of ‘success’.

2012 marked a new personal best for magazine rejections. The year began pretty well. In January I learned I was one of the top 10 in the National Poetry Competition 2011 and in February Cinnamon Press give me the chance of a collection through their regular competition call. But then it all went quiet – or worse than quiet – everything kept coming back and back and back. Nothing of mine was accepted for publication between February and November 2012. The drought was broken by Poetry Wales accepting two poems in November, the super zine Ink Sweat & Tears in December, Envoi last month and Long Poem Magazine just last week. The IS&T poems should be up on their site today (hence this post). Thanks to all those editors and outlets.

The thing is I know, as a former statistician (you kept that quiet didn’t you Ian?) that this distribution is not surprising. It is what you would expect of inherently low frequency, independent events. But as a poet it is bloody hard to get used to . No matter how carefully I rationalise or cultivate my thickish skin, every rejection still makes me question whether I am doing it right at all, every acceptance promotes the delusion that I may have ‘cracked it’. But here is the useful thing to recall: one of the poems accepted had already been to five magazines and picked up five rejections. After each rejection I probably looked at the poem again, maybe tinkered slightly, decided I still liked it and sent it out for another go. Quality is vital, but very hard to control. The lesson is that quantity also counts – and that is just a matter of willpower and stamps.

I too am about to reject lots of innocent poems. The contribution period for Magma 57, which I am editing (fortunately with the assistance of the excellent Hannah Lowe) starts on March the first. If past issues are anything to go by we will be able to accept about one in fifty of the poems we are sent. Many of the other forty nine will deserve publication. I think – provided we keep banging stamps on the envelopes and sending them off – those that deserve it will eventually get it.

And PS hop over to I S & T and take a look at some poems!