Since my last post I had a very welcome email from Jan Fortune at Envoi to say she would take for the next issue all five of the poems I’d sent her. Just the sort of thing you want in your inbox, and on National Poetry Day too, hurrah!
I’m particularly pleased about one of the poems because it’s been through several iterations, first started in 1999 back in the day when I did write poems but they were mostly confessional/therapeutic or else experimenting with form in quite a crude way. I’ve kept most of that material, and although none of it is publishable or even good writing there are some nuggets of good ideas which I sometimes go back to. This particular piece started life with the title ‘Scar’ but is now called ‘Closure’, kind of apt.
So then I thought I’d do the numbers on my submissions/rejections record. It’s been a while since I’ve done any analysis and invariably it reveals a surprising insight or two.
We’re always being told to send out rejected poems again – a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad poem, etc – and there’s that legendary tale of how Kim Moore had a poem rejected 14 times and then it was accepted by a fine magazine – as told in this super blog post by Roy Marshall.
Apparently, of all the poems I’ve sent out to magazines, 21% have been accepted first time, and 18% get in after 1, 2 or 3 tries elsewhere. I’ve not yet had a poem accepted that’s been rejected more than 3 times already. Of the six poems I’ve had rejected between 4 and 7 times, three of them are currently out again. Of the 61% of poems that have been rejected, half of these were rejected once and never sent out again.
I know it’s not the slightest bit scientific but these stats suggest two things to me. Firstly, I’m giving up on the majority of poems too soon, while perhaps holding on too long to a few ‘favourites’ when I should just let them go. Secondly, I need to keep writing more new material.
One thing I ought to say though is that some of the re-sent poems have been tweaked or even changed a lot before re-sending, which probably muddies the stats.
Actually I was surprised how many times I’d given up after just one rejection, I thought I was much better than that at sending out again.
What about you – do keep going with a piece when you believe in it? What’s the most number of times you’ve sent something out? Do you send a poem out again without modifying it, or do you make changes?