Friday, 5 June 2015

My poetry rejections

The great Capablanca in his book "Chess Fundamentals" decided to show nearly all of his losses. It would take too long for me to do likewise here for my poems, but maybe there are lessons to be learnt from my failures.

Single poems

Poetry Review270
Poetry London130
PN Review130
Here are the extant magazines I've sent the most poems to ("Weyfarers" and "Other Poetry" aren't active nowadays), along with my success statistics. I usually send poems in batches of 3, so even if one of them's accepted that counts as 2 failures. The last 4 magazines in the table belong to a tier of publications that I'd like to appear in, though I can go years without sending them anything. I usually know when I'm beaten, but I keep trying with "[The] Poetry Review", especially when they have a new editor. I read somewhere that they accept 1 poem in 500, so I suppose I'm not doing too badly. I've been close with "Magma", corresponding with editors on rewrites, but nothing yet.


Recently I've looked back at my attempts to produce follow-ups to my Moving Parts pamphlet. Here are the near misses -

  • From Poetry Wales -
    Poetry Wales is delighted to be able to finally reveal the results of the 2011 Purple Moose Poetry Prize. As always, it’s been a challenge for our judges, Zoe Skoulding and (judging the prize for the first time) John Barnie, but they have decided on a winner. And the Winner is: Archimedes’ Principle by Rebecca Perry. Congratulations Rebecca!

    In a slight break from the conventions of the last two competitions, the judges felt that, in addition to listing 3 or 4 highly commended entries, another collection warranted the recognition of being Runner-up: Facing Facts by Tim Love. Well done Tim.

    The winner’s work will be published by Seren

  • From Cinnamon Press -
    The debut poetry collection prize 2014 was adjudicated by Matthew Francis. The finalists were: Patricia Helen Wooldridge, Philip Madden, Frances-Anne King, Tim Love and Jane McLaughlin and we are delighted to announce that the overall winner was Jane McLaughlin with her collection Lockdown which will be published in September 2016.

The winners of these competitions have both had more success than I - Rebecca Perry's become a Bloodaxe poet and Jane McLaughlin's been shortlisted in the 2013 Bridport prize, longlisted in the 2014 National Poetry Competition, etc - so part of me thinks that I was lucky to get as far as I did. But all the same, being this close is disappointing.


  • Single poems - Magma has different editors each issue, so I should try them more.
  • Collections - Looking at the short-lists makes it clear that several people repeatedly get close to being published. There are however only so many places one can send the same poem or collection to. Eventually some new poems are required. Or at least new selections of old poems. Perhaps I should be more bold in the poems I submit as a pamphlet. A pamphlet's not always the best place to display one's breadth. It can afford to be tightly-focussed - even unrepresentative.
    I've created various pamphlet selections, each with fewer odd-men-out in terms of aesthetic demands required by the reader. The pamphlets overlap, but that's a problem I can deal with later.

I've been looking for proverbs that express the idea that narrowly losing can hurt more than being nowhere near winning. There's "a miss is as good as a mile"; "close but no cigar"; "so near and yet so far", etc. but nothing comes to mind that expresses how one feels coming 4th in an Olympic final that you never thought you'd reach. Suggestions welcomed.

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