Skip to main content

An Appeal to Poetry Editors

Dear Poetry Editors,*

For years, poets have grown accustomed to rejection in several forms (as in rejection forms) and the occasional nice note. However, there are some editorial practices that need to be done away with for the good mental health of poets, who already have their mental health called into question for working tirelessly at their craft for little or no money (myself included).

No Note
First, there's the case of editors who don't include any sort of note--even a form letter--with rejected poems. I totally understand if you can't afford to print up form rejection letters, but surely you at least have a pen that can write something on the poems. The word NO would probably convey your meaning.

No note gives poets a false sense of hope. For instance, they may think, "Hey, there was no rejection included, so maybe...maybe they liked what I sent?"

Don't laugh. Poets are a hopeful people.

Empty Envelope**
This is even more bizarre than the no note tactic. After all, the poet sent poems and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Where did the poems go? Where is the confirmation of rejection?

All you've done is make the poet suspicious of their postal carriers (Did he or she steal my poems?) and wonder, "Hey, they didn't send back my poems or a rejection. That means they're using them, right? Right?"

No Response***
Do you want to know how patient poets can be? How eternally optimistic? I've met poets who submitted their poems more than three years previously and then ask me with a straight face whether it's safe for them to submit their poems somewhere else.

Your lack of response has poets sitting around at workshops speculating that since you haven't responded to them yet that, "they must really be giving my work a lot of consideration. Perhaps, there is only room for one more poem, and it's between me, Mary Oliver and Billy Collins."

Seriously, do you enjoy this kind of monkey torture?

No Response Acceptance
This practice is not only annoying, but it can get poets in trouble--if they're actually lucky enough to get accepted by another publication before they realize you accepted their work without notifying them. Talk about awkward.

Of course, you're probably banking on the fact that all poets are patient and willing to wait around on you. Or maybe you think that no poet is lucky enough to have the same poem accepted by two different editors. Or it's possible that you're just not thinking.

If you're going to accept a poet's poems, have the decency to notify the poet. Heck, they might even brag about their acceptance and drive traffic to your site and/or subscribers to your publication. Poets are crazy like that.

Bottom Line
Poets don't expect much--or else why would we be writing poetry? We don't expect personalized rejections. In fact, though I appreciate them, I know poets who don't like those either.

The very least you can do is send us that impersonal rejection form that lets us poets know that we're not good enough for you now, but if we keep trying (and get extremely lucky), maybe we'll fool you into liking our stuff with our next submission. Or the one after that.****

Sincerely,

Robert Lee Brewer
Poet



* Look. I know that most poetry editors do a great job of responding. Some even give encouraging feedback and advice. But there are a few evil editors out there who seem to forget that poets are also human beings who like to have some type of response--even a negative one.

** If you're an editor who returned my self-addressed, stamped envelope without my poems, because you've accepted them for publication, please go ahead and print them. I only meant that for editors who don't accept my poems.

*** If it really is down to Mary, Billy and myself, choose me. Everyone already knows those other two poets. You'll look like you're just accepting their work because of their recognizable names. Wouldn't you rather be the editor courageous enough to reject the other two and accept a relatively unknown poet? Of course you would.

**** Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. (See what I meant about eternal optimism?)

*****

Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

*****



Poets! Find the right poetry editor for your poems with the 2011 Poet's Market. It includes proper submission techniques, poetry reading tips, and hundreds of publishing opportunities.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Poetry Editors! If you're not currently listed in Poet's Market, send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com to find out how to get a listing. Yes, they're free.

Instagram: An Underutilized Tool for the Freelance Writer

Instagram: An Underutilized Tool for the Freelance Writer

In this post, author C. Hope Clark shares tips on how freelance writers can use Instagram as a tool to find more freelance writing connections, assignments, and overall success.

Jane Porter: On the Joy of Writing Mature Characters

Jane Porter: On the Joy of Writing Mature Characters

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jane Porter discusses celebrating the nature of getting older in her new romance novel, Flirting With Fifty.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 610

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a "different way of seeing the world" poem.

How To Research Topics Like a Journalist

How To Research Topics Like a Journalist

From in-person interviews to scouring the web for credible sources, journalist Alison Hill shares tips on how to research topics like a journalist.

Can I Have Your Attention?

Can I Have Your Attention?

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, an announcement is about to change the course of history.

Glenn Boozan: On the Funny Side of Parenting

Glenn Boozan: On the Funny Side of Parenting

Emmy nominated comedy writer Glenn Boozan discusses how a funny piece of perspective turned into her new humor book, There Are Moms Way Worse Than You.

From Script

Adapting True Crime and True Stories for Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers and showrunners Robert Siegel and D.V. DeVincentis (“Pam & Tommy”), Patrick Macmanus and Liz Hannah (“The Girl from Plainville”) who both have taken creative liberties in adapting true stories for a limited series.

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Chanel Cleeton: On Reader Enthusiasm Conjuring Novel Ideas

Author Chanel Cleeton discusses how reader curiosity led her to write her new historical fiction novel, Our Last Days in Barcelona.

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.