the art of the rejection letter
& examples, recommendations, quotations, tweets, etc.
Happy Monday, folks!
Here’s what I have for you today:
Calls to action
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Shoutout to these tweeters who are so nice to me. Love you.
Like everyone, I get a lot of rejections from journals. In the past few days, though, the one’s I’ve gotten have been really kind—not because they’re necessarily personalized, but rather because the editors seem to know that it can be difficult to receive bad news and thus try to minimize their cruelty.
That is: even though I got a rejection, it didn’t feel devastating.
In part, maybe I was so focused on the kindness of these rejections
because they so closely followed the examination of The Willowherb Review’s cruel rejection to friend/fellow poet Marissa Ahmadkhani—one that at first came across as condescending and then, upon further research, as just callous.
As we learned, they had been sending the same critical rejection letter to at least several submitters:
Note: the Willowherb editors were really receptive to feedback (x) and pay writers of color very generously, so please don’t let this keep you from submitting to them going forward:
In any case,
I want to share the kind rejections I’ve received recently & encourage you to submit to these journals. That’s today’s call to action: pick one of the journals listed below & submit there.
Dear Despy Boutris,
Thank you again for submitting your work to The Puritan.
As editors, we’re forced to select an extremely small number of works from the hundreds of great submissions we receive each quarter. Submissions for this issue were once again excellent, and numerous. Although we have to pass on your submission this time around, we really enjoyed your submission and hope that you will consider submitting again in the future.
The Puritan Editorial Staff
Thanks so much for submitting to The Offing; we truly appreciate it. Unfortunately, we don't have enough staff to offer individual critiques, but please know that a department editor did review your work with thought and care. This piece isn't right for us, but we hope it finds an excellent home elsewhere — and we wish great success with your writing.
The Offing Editors
Dear Despy Boutris,
Thank you for sending "3" for consideration in Fractured Lit. We really enjoyed your story, but we're sorry this isn’t the right story for us right now. We did find much to admire in your work, though, and we hope you'll send us more to consider soon.
Dear Despy Boutris--
Though we've decided not to publish the work you submitted this time, the editorial team at TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics is grateful for the chance to read it.
In fact, we want to encourage you to submit your work again in the future. Based on this submission, our readers would be happy to look at more of your writing.
We hope that you will continue to read Tab Journal at www.tabjournal.org.
TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics
here is a rejection letter that—while decent enough—could maybe use some improvement:
Dear Despy Boutris,
Thank you for sending us 4 Poems. We appreciate the chance to read your submission. Unfortunately, this work is not for us.
Thanks again. Best of luck with this.
The Chaffin Journal Editors
One more call to action:
If you’re an editor of a literary journal, look over your form rejection. Are you able to replace any condescension? Do you offer critiques without warning submitters? Is there a way you might add a sentence that’s thoughtful?
Here is the form rejection I send at The West Review—
it tries to be kind and honest without coming off as disingenuous or condescending.
Thank you so much for sending over these poems. They're not quite right for our next issue, but please know that we enjoyed reading them -- and we're so glad to know about your work.
Best of luck placing these elsewhere!
As I read submissions,
I’m always thinking of Dorianne Laux’s response when asked “What contemporary poets do you see your work in conversation with?”:
All of them. Even the poems I don’t quite understand or respond to as strongly have something to offer, some way of speaking or being or seeing that I can learn from and admire. Even a line can inspire—an image, an idea, a rhythm or a voice. Anyone who dedicates a large portion of their life to poetry is worthy of my attention and respect. There are so few of us. (x)
One more call to action:
If you’re an editor, how can you communicate that kind of generosity to even the submitters that you reject?
I’ve (finally!) started making my way through Jody Chan’s Sick. They’re a tremendous poet, and I recommend you read my interview with them, in which their responses are so thoughtful & brilliant.
Anyway, here are the lines I’ve underlined in Sick thus far:
there is an ocean between me & what I miss
we drank need / like water
I dream on wet pillows / wake hollowed of history
our bodies are museums, as in: the wings of flightless birds
you hoard the colour / of his laugh its sour edges
he looks at you / like a harvest
why else / would I be here but to bury my bruises
we share no words / for what I am / girl / bird / boy / tangled thing /
have you ever wanted / to be the bayonet / and not the bird
I can’t forget / what happened / to me / because he saw me / as woman / meaning wick / waiting to be consumed
I surrender / to your violent botany, / your fanged need.
hypothesis: the right hands, faithwarm, can heal / anything.
this is not how / you imagined growing up would feel, heart thrashing alone / in the dark.
the rain drapes a grey coat on the day.
what versions of ourselves
await in the after of a life spent
watching streetcars shipwreck on Spadina
Avenue & feeling blameless?
how many apocalypses does it take
to crack the lie of an illegitimate
country? this border, an entrance
someone somewhere mourns / a newer loss.
at some point I must have learned
to pass a corpse without asking how it died.
if the world was ending I would
barely look away from my little life
long enough to notice.
what color is your shame?
what is your heart’s name?
every day I sweep the detritus of my own need
into the shape of another’s
if I could use my devotion as currency
I would be enough for her
if I were a little more boy
a little less lonely
I prayed to be worshipped or at least
sometimes youth is an excuse
and sometimes a confession.
I knead my desires to an appropriate density.
That’s all I have for you today!
Stay healthy, sane, & keep looking out for each other—
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