I might be in the wrong business. I just have no big interest in submitting work to journals. Crazy, no? I've never been one of those poets who add and add to the slush pile. I'm not knocking these poets. It's just not me. I send out about four packets a year. Two to three poems in each packet.
Don't get me wrong. I like seeing my work in print. I'm really looking forward to seeing my poems in future issues of Poetry Northwest and Quarterly West. But I've never been one of those poets who associates success with publication. I know how subjective the whole process is. I know how insectous the whole process is. To me publication is no big deal. Though I do, like so many other bloggers, jump with joy when one of my poems gets accepted. But I'm jumping with joy because my poem has found an appreciative reader. I want readers not CV filler.*
I have this attitude toward journals because I'm so critical of my work. Of all the poems I've published only one has escaped revision after appearing in print. One. The other poems have been edited, reshaped or thrown out. I know poets who only keep a poem in their mss because it has appeared in a good journal. Crazy, no?
Also, I'm such a bad player of the game. I won't submit to journals where I "know" the editors. No New England Review or 32 Poems or The Canary for me. Last summer one of my friends became the poetry editor of a new hip journal and he asked me to submit. I didn't want to submit. There are so many journals out there! Why submit to those edited by your friends or fellow bloggers? But in the end I did submit and my friend did take two poems. I felt no joy. I was disgusted with myself. Thankfully, his stint came to end quickly and the issue never materialized.
Gawd, this post sounds bitter! I asked myself if this post originates from a place of jealously. And I can safely say no. I have no reason to be jealous of those who play the game better than me. I know it's about the game not the work. Of course, not all poets are players. Some who submit religiously do it because they produce a lot of work. I'm thinking of Paul Guest. I adore his work. He's actually one of the few people whose work invokes envy in me. When he gets published, I'm thankful.
Publication leads to readership: an audience of practicing poets. But responses are rare. Perhaps a kind blog comment or email. I'm glad people are reading my work in journals. But in my head the acceptance from a journal means the editor has read my work intensely. I might be wrong about this. But that's my fantasy.