Acceptances, Rejections & Retirements

Inspired by Adam Ford’s witty and honest posts on rejection (see one here), I thought I’d try something similar now (though I’ll combine brief stories of both acceptance and rejection for today). I think what I like best about Adam’s posts is the ‘thinking out loud’ (critically) aspect of the posts, that and the transparency re: the submission process.


But, starting with some great news, in the near future I’ve poems forthcoming in Wet Ink, fourW, Famous Reporter and Best Australian Poems 2012.  The news is especially exciting for me because I’ve never had work placed in three of the publications, and there’s a thrill that always comes from that, in addition to the thrill of an acceptance. I’m also really excited to join a long list of fantastic poets in the BAP series!

Equally pleasing is the news that the piece accepted for Famous Reporter is available to read now – a recent piece based around a moment that struck me in Pompeii. Have a look here if you get the chance.


Most rejections are, if I’m in a good mood, opportunities. They always sting but soon enough I see it as a chance to either rework and resend the piece, or to retire it. Which brings me to a question that I’ve struggled to answer sometimes, how do we know when it’s time to retire a poem? When has it done too many trips, been knocked down too often, how do I know it’s just no good and accept that I need to stop sending it out? Should be easy, right?

Well, yes and no. I once had a poem (rotary) rejected many, many times over the course of two years, but if I’d stopped revising and sending it’d obviously be unpublished today (wish I could revise it just one more time actually!)

Of course, that’s an exception – most poems, if they’ve been rejected by half a dozen publications, begin to look pretty hopeless and I end up retiring them. A good example is political poem called two horse race that I’ve had sent back from GDS and Cordite this year, and I’m looking at it now and asking myself, why do I still try to write politically themed poems – I suck at them! So I’m shelving it and may come back to it in the future – so it’s not quite retired but it’s close enough. Another recent knock back was from Meanjin by the wonderful Judith Beveridge who passed on the sneaking moon (and a couple others) which definitely needed some tightening. Another piece from the batch needed a title change and a major re-write, but I’ll not retire either, as they might find a home yet.

8 thoughts on “Acceptances, Rejections & Retirements

  1. Congratulations on the acceptances, all big name journals. BAP feels fantastic and for a year you can walk into most book stores and pick up a collection in which you feature, I loved doing that over the past year and pointing out to whomever was with me, of course most of my friends would then go on to ask “who’s Les Murray? Who’s Luke Davies?” But they still appreciated the name in print!
    Rejections? I haven’t had many rejections this year, because I haven’t been submitting! But therein lies the conundrum, because the only way to reduce rejections is to reduce submissions. It depends on what you want to do with your work, you could go Dickinson and keep 1800 poems in your room, not to escape until after your death, or you could Bukowski them, sending them to every journal that comes across, and he didn’t really start publishing “properly” until he was 50, though he’d been writing 5 – 20 poems a night for 15 years solid!
    Most rejections don’t bother me, but I do get a bit disappointed. Some acceptances have had me more concerned because I never feel a work is finished and I’d like to take most back and work them again. Some rejections make me laugh, some obscure US blog, run by a couple of high school students encouraging me to “keep trying”!

    • Thanks, Mark! I’m pretty excited about the BAP one – and now I’ll be doing exactly what you’ve suggested, taking people into bookstores hahaha

      I know what you mean, the less we sub, the poorer we ultimately far, huh? It takes a lot of energy to sub a lot, and sometimes it’s just impossible to keep up the pace. Wow, 5-20 poems a night. That’s Herculean. I’ve been lucky to write 5 new poems a month this year.

      Ah, yes, I’ve had a few of those sorts of rejections – we take it in the spirit it’s offered, but it does make you smile huh?

  2. In terms of my feelings about the submission process in general, I prefer to hold out for the moments when someone from a journal or whatever reads something I’ve already published on my blog and likes it so much that they ask if they can have it. I’ve only been writing in public for 4 years or so though, so I guess there’s a fair chance my feelings will change about that inasfar as I am willing to admit that I get pretty frustrated at times when something I’ve written doesn’t get the recognition that I think it deserves – at which point I think maybe I should stop writing so freely, leave it unpublished, and try to find a respectable journal to force it down the throat of. The next point at which I go ‘screw that’, since if I don’t publish this one on my own terms I will never discover the next one that naturally follows on my own terms from it (or from my own terms on it for that matter).

    Of course I am assuming that for a piece of something to naturally follow from an earlier piece of something, it needs to be exposed to all the elements. The personal blog publication is without doubt exposed to more elements in the short term, but the very act of exposing it to those elements denies the writing access to the elements of the respectable journal; the respectable journal that operates by its own laws – just like this particular individual seems to think I can.

    What does all that mean for/to me?

    I’m not aiming for my writing to be published by what passes today for a respectable journal. I’m aiming for someone to give me some critical feedback in the knowledge that it won’t be taken so personally by either of us that friendship in the face of it becomes impossible.

    For example:

    I’m aiming to bet that if there is any justice in the world the editors of the currently most respectable journals will abandon their demands for previously unpublished work and start taking part in the wider conversation.

    If I get my way, that’s when I get published!

    • I know what you mean about the subbing process conflicting with the instinctive(?) and enjoyable process of placing work online in the blog, it’s a splitting of creative energy, huh?

      Great comment there from Paul – that kind of feedback is rare.

      A few are starting to edge in that direction I think, but not many. There combination of a print & online aspect of journals is on the rise, but that’s not the same.

  3. congrats Ash. and you know I like those posts.

    I am with Mark – this year I have submitted much less and the rejections come very sporadic and little, making the whole thing easier.
    I also skip all web publications. I can do that my own – what I want from the publication is to have something in hand, something I can hold in my hands – maybe it is silly but I see that, at the moment, as the height of what I can achieve.

    Been trying over a year to put down a collection and I find it very frustrating. It would be so great but I guess I am not yet there; in a place to put together 80 something works that can hold. And not yet there in the level of doing that by my own.

    Good to have all you guys around.

    • Thanks, Dhyan! I understand that impulse, to actually be able to hold the publication is wonderful, irreplaceable.

      80 is a nice sized collection, Dhyan, you’d have a heap of great pieces up your sleeve, Have you been submitting collections much this year?

      • Thanks Ash, I appreciate that. I guess you are right about the 80. This is where i am aiming.

        I have actually never submitted a collection. Took me almost a year to choose about 80 from my first 300 and as more stuff is piling up i start to dislike many of those first ones – a good reason why i do wish to have them publish as i think otherwise,
        almost normally, i will have them discarded.

        Since then for almost a year I am working on editing. very hard job. I have not a great control on English, mainly when comes to tenses and so i am almost never satisfied enough with what i have. Still hope to get there somewhere in the beginning of 2013 (it was mid 2012 before :D)

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