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Waiting on, working on, poems stock-take

I’m sat here with a number of scribbled-on poems around me, trying to decide which one(s) to resume work on and which to re-file for now. They’ve all been workshopped at some point, some of them to the extent that I’ve fallen out of love with them and not looked at them since. But surely there’s a grain or two I can rescue and use.

poems in progress
Everything here appears to be in tercets – hmmm.

I’m also checking what I’ve already got sent out, what hasn’t been sent anywhere yet, and what’s recently come back and awaiting re-sending OR filing for now OR re-working.

Currently in the ‘no response yet’ folder are:

  • Four poems sent to The North in May
  • Three to Poetry London in June
  • Five to Envoi in August
  • Five to Shearsman in September

At least three of these 17 poems I’ve since revised, which is sometimes what happens if I secretly think there’s a high probability of rejection. I know you’re supposed to only send out poems when they are the BEST THEY CAN BE. But how do you know when that is? Even stuff that’s been published I sometimes look at later and want to change.

And if you’ve substantially revised a piece, does it then constitute a new poem for the purposes of ‘simultaneous submissions’, and therefore legitimate to send elsewhere while waiting for the first magazine to reply? I haven’t done this yet (ahem! in case any of the above editors happen to read this!) but I’m thinking on it.

At the moment I’ve got one poem forthcoming in fabulous The Rialto, but nothing else. It’s not that I’m not very excited to be in The Rialto, but this year having made an effort to write more and send out more, so far I’ve had fewer acceptances. So I suppose I’m just wondering if I’ve become too hung up on quantity and the quality has slipped.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be on a poetry ‘masterclass’ at Ty Newydd, and I’m hoping it will be a kick up the bum/reality check/inspirational boost… or preferably all three. Will let you know.

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  1. Dear Robin, as usual your blog rings so many bells. It is what I love about your blog – you are one of us even though you are actually better and more successful. And you’ve got into The Rialto – what more can you desire!
    But this knowing when the poem is finished – impossible. Pascale Petit told me that having published Sharon Olds she was surprised to see how much SO had edited those same poems later. I suppose you have to have confidence. Or not!
    It gets more difficult rather than not.
    Meg xx

    • Thanks for your supportive comment Meg! That’s very interesting about Sharon Olds. I hadn’t thought about that but yes, you do read sometimes in collection credits to magazines where some of the poems ‘or versions of them’ have been previously published.

  2. Hi Robin you forgot to mention your excellent poem ‘On Wiley’s Bridge’ just published in The Frogmore Papers. (My ‘bumped’ poem will appear next issue, yay!)

    Funnily enough just been doing a stock take too.So much drivel, but a one or two forgotten good ones.

    What was it that Auden said: “I agree with Valery: ‘A poem is never finished, it is only abandoned.’” I think until it’s in your book, it’s all negotiable…

    • Thanks Peter – actually I was only talking about forthcoming rather than past poems, but yes it was lovely to have something in the Frogmore Papers – thankyou for your comment and I look forward to seeing you in person (as opposed to a ghostly reference!) in the next issue.
      “Until it’s in your book, it’s all negotiable” – excellent, I will remember that!

  3. […] update first of all to my October ‘working on, waiting on’ post: Poetry London – standard rejection slip. Shearsman – standard rejection email. The […]

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Robin Houghton 2021