Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Adventures in Rejection: Poem Length

Like any other writer out there, I spend a great deal of my time sending out submissions to chapbook contests and literary magazines. Most rejection letters come back without comment, but I received one a few weeks back that had a handwritten note on the bottom: "Poetic observations: consider lengthening your poems and/or doing multi-section poems."

I understand that short poems do not adhere to everyone's aesthetic desires. However, I also know myself as a poet, and short poems are kind of my thing. I'm not saying this to be stubborn. Long poems do not come naturally to me, and I cannot force myself to write them. In fact, the longer my poems are, the weaker they become. This is a fact of my writing life that I've had to accept and embrace over the years.

My friend Ed called this rejection "a load of buffalo bagels," and I'm inclined to agree. Any good editor is sensitive to the fact that poets and story writers come in all varieties, and what should matter is the quality of the content, not the length of the piece. (Full disclosure: I feel safe saying that because I work as an editor myself.) 

I've written this post more for my own edification than to make any kind of definitive statement on the issue, but I hope it will help those of you out there facing suggestions that seem outrageous.

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