Bludgeoning myself into submissions

I regularly submit page poetry to literary journals. You might not have noticed this, as they usually get rejected.

Actually, that’s being unduly gloomy.  I’ve done all right this year – I’ve had 14 poems accepted so far in 2016, which is twice what I had accepted in the whole of 2015 and we’re only in July. Admittedly, this is partly because I’ve submitted far more than I did in 2015 (I’ve also had far more rejections than last year), but given that I’ve tried to be more selective about where I submit to, it’s not a bad record, at all. And everybody gets rejected most of the time – it’s one of those things you have to learn to live with if you are attempting to make it to the elite level in any discipline.

Rejections still hurt, though, especially if I get a lot in the same week or if they’re from that Very Prestigious Journal With A Name That Sounds Like It Ought To Be a High-End Brand Of Aftershave who I keep trying and keep getting knocked back by. It’s comforting to read far better poets than me blogging about their rejections or about how many years of submissions it took before they got any acceptances at all. I need reminders that it’s not a race.

I probably submit too much, including work that’s not ready yet. There is immense pressure to get yourself widely published and by the “right” journals in order to be taken seriously as a poet: credible publishers won’t usually consider issuing pamphlets or full-length collections by poets who haven’t got a track record in the journals and my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of the poetic equivalents of that bastard in the school exam hall who was always putting his/her hand up for more paper before I’d finished writing my introductory paragraph. This pressure can lead to an unhelpful, production line approach.

I read recently that Philip Larkin wrote 2-3 poems a year in his most prolific periods. There’s something to be said for writing fewer poems, but crafting and crafting them until they’re perfect, and getting off the hamster wheel of continual submission.

But that’s never going to happen with me – I need external validation too much.


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