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How many times do you send out a poem?

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?

Published inAngstMags & BlogsSubmissionsWriting

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  1. Congratulations on your Envoi acceptances, Robin. I found your analysis of submissions really interesting, too.

  2. Well done, Robin! Five poems in one magazine is almost a mini-collection! I’ve hit a rush of online acceptances but only one in print acceptance, recently. I’m trying to concentrate on writing and will send out again in a batch once I’ve accumulated a nice healthy stash of poems (that’s my plan, whether or not I’ll stick to it is another matter)!

    • Hi Josephine – ah! a rush of acceptances sounds lovely, well done! But what about the question – about how many times you would send out a poem before either giving up on it or having it accepted – are you prepared to share?? Thanks for commenting either way ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I don’t keep very good records so I can’t give you a scientific number but I haven’t given up on a poem once I’ve managed to finish it. I keep sending it out but I always tinker with it – I’ve never sent a rejected poem straight out again without making some adjustments. I’m beginning to wonder, though, if some of these poems are actually my ‘darlings’ which need to be murdered…I’ll try to improve my record keeping so I can give you a better answer! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Hi Josephine! I know what you mean about the ‘darlings’ … Maybe the one I’ve got for the 7th time needs resting! Thanks for contributing ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Well done on the Envoi acceptance! I write stories, not poetry and I’ve had a few accepted 2nd or 3rd time out but I usually give up after about the 4th attempt and realise that maybe the story’s not quite up to scratch.

    • Hi Sally! Ah well that’s similar to me then – although I’ve persisted with one or beyond four times it’s unusual. Thanks for sharing that ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. […] got me thinking about my attitude to individual poems. Last year I did a rough stock-take of how many times I’d send out a poem before putting it away in the bottom drawer. It doesn’t show a lot of persistence. Iย tend to […]

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Robin Houghton 2021