Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rejections Aplenty!

I’m getting rejections like crazy on my poetry. While most are just thanks but no thanks, or doesn’t fit our needs, one editor wrote:

Thank you for sending your work to ____. Unfortunately I have not selected any of these for the upcoming issue. Though there are some interesting observations here, they tend to tell all and thus leave little for the reader to discover. I REALLY THOUGHT I’D MASTERED THE SHOW DON’T TELL IN MY HAIKU. Also it may surprise you to learn that a 5-7-5 syllable count is neither required nor necessarily desired in contemporary English-language haiku. YES, THIS DOES SURPRISE ME. I KNEW IT WASN’T REQUIRED, 5-7-5 IS MY PREFERENCE BUT FOR IT NOT TO BE DESIRED? THEY JUST FLAT DON’T WANT IT? THAT’S TERRIBLE! Also, haiku are not titled. I KNEW THIS TOO. I’D READ THAT AS HAIKU SPREAD WESTWARD, WE STARTED ADDING TITLES BUT HISTORICALLY, HAIKU ARE NOT TITLED—SO AGAIN, MY TITLES WERE MY PREFERENCE. If you are interested in learning more about contemporary haiku in general and ___’s editorial outlook in particular, you may enjoy reading the online essay _____________________________. You will find a link to the essay on our website: _____________________. Please check the website for submission guidelines and sample poems as well.
All best to you,

This was a wonderfully specific rejection. Wish they all came with this much info. Unfortunately, my submission made the editor feel I had NOT read their submission guidelines, the online essay or the sample poetry. I had. Before I submitted. And reading the sample poetry, I thought I might offer her something with a little more meat (5-7-5 )on its bones. Ha! Now isn’t that the height of arrogance?

And while her submission guidelines said nothing about submitting 3-5-3 haiku or any variation, said nothing about 5-7-5 being undesirable or outdated, there was a hint in the very title of the magazine that I overlooked. The title very specifically states contemporary haiku.

I’m not as smart as I think I am, huh?

How many times do we overlook the obvious when we read publisher's guidelines? We can skim over one word and misread the entire picture. Of course, many times we’re so convinced our writing is super-fantastic, the editor will gobble it up even though it doesn’t adhere to their guidelines.

Yes, I prefer 5-7-5 syllable haiku but that particular magazine doesn’t. I don’t like the unfinished look of no-titles, but I’ll have to live with that; play by the rules or not at all. So, back to the drawing board when it comes to haiku. Now, what to do with 35 haiku—5-7-5 and all titled? Any suggestions?

My husband has one: get back to the novel writing!


Charles Gramlich said...

I actually agree that 5 7 5 isn't desirable in American Haiku. English haiku, I think, are what are called "one breath poems," and the length of many is actually shorter than 5 7 5. I didn't come up with this on my own but from the work of David Lanoue, a haiku poet and translater that I know. He also speaks Japanese and he argues that the 5 7 5 in english just doesn't really match up with the haiku concept.

Jess said...

Hi Charles. I like the phrase "one breath poems." What bothers me in knowing that the 5 7 5 is so "undesirable" is that I participated in a poetry reading and what did I read? Yeah! Don't I feel like a real idiot! Oh well, a perfect example of ignorance is bliss, I guess.

David Cranmer said...

I admire anyone that can construct poems and haikus.

Carole said...

I have an answer for your 35 haiku with titles. Have a posting once a week called Haiku. I don't even remember much about Haiku.

Sylvia Ney said...

Keep writing what you enjoy. Submissions are like boomerangs - if they keep coming back rejected, keep sending them out! You can always self-publish them down the road. Good luck!

Jess said...

David -- So do I! :)

Carole--not a bad idea but I don't want ya'll to start throwing tomatoes.

Sylvia - I've already rewritten several of those poems she rejected and sent them back to her. We'll see what happens.

Angie Kay Dilmore said...

Hey, Darrell Bourque writes 5-7-5 haikus and I think he knows a thing or two about poetry. My son Eric once won second place in a poetry contest with a 5-7-5 haiku. Where's the challenge if there's no structure? Next they'll be wimping out on sonnets.