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A poetry Spring clean

I’m finally getting myself back on track after two weeks of Jury Service. There are blogs to attend to, email updates to send, all manner of poetry admin for Telltale Press, Brighton Stanza and Needlewriters and maybe, just maybe some time to do some actual writing and even sending off. Oh and the small matter of a pending house move. Possibly.

So it’s time for some clearing out and cleaning up. A good friend recently did a massive wardrobe overhaul and I was the happy recipient of a ton of free clothes and ‘accessories’ – not being an accessories kind of gal I’ve now increased the number of scarves and bags I own by about 800%. My husband thinks I’ve been abducted and replaced with someone far more well-heeled. To make space for all this (we still live in a little house … at least for another 6 weeks or so) I now have another huge bag of other stuff to take to the charity shop. And a good clean out of drawers and wardrobe done prior to The Big Move.

What this is all leading up to of course is the fact that SPRING CLEAN MANIA has infected the ‘poetry’ folder (and all its sub-folders) on my computer.  I started archiving poems in February and both the ‘archive’ and ‘not for publication’ folders are now bulging. (The latter is important – if anything were to happen to me, it will be very clear to any kind friend or family member going through my poems WHICH ones must never see the light of day. A bit control-freakish? Maybe!)

I am also doing a ruthless cull of outstanding submissions. Yes folks, I’ve taken a unilateral decision – and no doubt some people will find this controversial – to finally consider dead those submissions I’ve been waiting on since August and September last year. Inasmuch as I’m taking them out of the ‘pending’ folder and either resubmitting, editing or shelving them.  Here’s how it all ended (an update to a previous post on this topic):

Magazine A: 4 poems submitted by email (£1 paid) August 2014 – that’s 268 days /38 weeks ago. First gentle enquiry sent November 2014, no response. Second enquiry January 2015, no response. Since then, I’ve heard from two poet friends that this particular magazine had never replied to their submissions either, even after a year. It’s a shame, because it was a good publication and I’ve had work in it in the past, but I feel all the goodwill I had for them has been sucked out me and spat back in my face.

Magazine B: 4 poems submitted September 2014. I had included two SAEs – one was purely a receipt, which was kindly sent back to me six weeks later. I provided this because 2 previous submissions had been lost.  I didn’t enquire about these poems, because I was reassured by the receipt, plus this is a magazine I have a lot of time for and I didn’t want to hassle the editors. When I did finally enquire recently, after 8 months, I did get a quick response, but it was clear from the many questions and answers we exchanged that the poems couldn’t be located. In the end I told them not to spend any more time looking, and that I would consider them withdrawn.

It was a sad decision to make, but I’ve had that particular editor running round looking for my poems more than once before, and there’s no point annoying editors unnecessarily or giving them extra work. There’s certainly no point flogging a dead horse: I can’t help but think that if there was anything good about the poems they wouldn’t have ended up at the bottom of a filing tray or stuck to the sole of someone’s shoe.

In the meantime, of course, many other publications have read and responded to submissions I’ve sent them, some quickly, some slowly, some acceptances but more rejections – and that’s the natural ebb and flow of poems in and poems out. As I’ve said before, I am sympathetic to overworked editors and in their position I’m sure I’d get fed up with reading bad work and dealing with the odd bit of bad poet behaviour. Although to be honest I don’t know of any poets who bombard magazines with stroppy enquiries or any of the other things we submitters are regularly accused of.

What I do know is that there are magazine editors who are good excellent at:

  1. managing poets’ expectations by keeping instructions on their website accurate – and if this means stating ‘do not enquire until after 6 months have passed’ or even ‘we do not respond to all submissions’ then so be it!  (I know of several publications who state these are their policies, and I respect them for that. After all, if I don’t like it, I don’t have to submit, do I?)
  2. responding to polite enquiries received after the ‘expect a reply by’ date. Is it so hard to do?

So – what now to do with the 8 poems now back in circulation? On first glance I think I’ve already revised a couple of them. There are another 3 or 4 I think I will shelve for now. Which leaves 2 or 3 I’m still happy with as is.

Now if I were REALLY serious about Spring cleaning I wouldn’t be archiving the old or bad poems, I’d be deleting them completely – but I just find that very hard to do, stupid as it may sound.

Anyway, that’s now off my chest. There is of course the small matter of the 5 poems submitted to another publication in November 2014 that I’m still waiting on … I’ve had no response to my two enquiries, but I’m giving it until July before writing that one off.


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Robin Houghton 2021
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