Zen and the Art of Submitting Poetry

My title is cadged from a poem by Cameron Self, which I have reproduced without direct permission for non-commercial purposes. I credit Literary Norfolk as the source.

Zen and the Art of Submitting Poetry

Rejection does not make you a bad poet.
Acceptance does not make you a good one.
Therefore, neither should trouble you.
Chase after fame, however, and you put your life
Into the hands of others:
They will tip you between hope and despair.

Aim, then, to be aimless.
Seek neither publication, nor acclaim:
Submit without submitting.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

I have, however, with a modicum of external encouragement chosen to submit some poems for publication to magazines. I do not have the faintest idea what the outcome will be, but statistically the likelihood is rejection. With most poetry magazines the number of writers making submissions exceeds the number of readers, and most submission guidelines estimate that they publish between 1% and 3% of submitted poetry.

One thing I have found is that magazines will not publish poems that are already available on the internet, including blogs. If I am going to go down this route I cannot therefore publish poems here unless I never intend to submit them anywhere, or they have been rejected for formal publication. I was not aware of this until now, and have therefore had to make some judicious edits to previous blog posts. I am sure this will not be a problem, it is not as though they were there for long or I have an extensive number of readers.

This is slightly unsatisfactory. It creates holes in the narrative, and for the purpose of something that has a vanishingly small probability. But to submit a poem knowing full well that it is unpublishable because of prior circulation is a bit too symbolic even for me, as much as I love a good metaphor.

I’m having the usual difficulties with all this, which run in tandem with my problems in writing a blog. The boundary between me and you is getting very smudged from my perspective. I have, however, let go of worrying about the reasons for either this or that for now and simply accepted that they are choices I have made, and I most probably could not have chosen otherwise. I’m having a little fun with that, too.

As usual, that last paragraph sparks ideas for a dozen more posts about writing, absence, anonymity, context and ego but we shall see where that goes.


3 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Submitting Poetry

    • I’d considered that, but poetry magazines in the UK seem to be sticklers. One that I have submitted to gave a stark warning that decisions to publish have been reversed where it has become clear that there had been a prior dissemination online. I’d rather play ball I think, rather than risk it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s