Poetry Submissions – Responses & Rejection

Of late there seems to be an increasing trend for journals not to bother with a response to a (poetry) submission – something which they are either upfront about or seem to willfully ignore.

Sometimes it’s on the website – the publication mentions the fact that if you hear nothing you know you failed. Some are considerate enough to give a rough timeline too. It’s pretty clear and simple, and I see where they’re coming from. It’s a time thing. But it also seems like a drop in the level of courtesy.

Now, I don’t like it, but I have to admit, having been an editor of/with several print and online publications, and as poet too, I’m familiar with the frustrations to be found on both sides of the mailbox. As an editor, getting a flood of submissions and being swamped by them is tough, and because you’re often a volunteer, you’re also overworked. Overworked into thr ground often. And time is always short.

As a poet, hearing nothing at all is just offensive and disheartening. ‘Bad form’ to quote Captain Hook.

Clearly, if a publication is one of the ‘big ones’ then they’re potentially facing thousands of subs. Going Down Swinging mentioned having around 3000 subs for issues 31/32. That’s more than significant. That’s monstrous. (And GDS always responds by the way.)

I also know how much of a bastard you feel, as an editor, when you overlook a reply, and leave someone out (for whatever reason). It really sucks and you feel unprofessional. But it’s a reality.

However, as discussed here at Adam Ford’s blog, it is polite to send out a form letter/e-mail. (If GDS can get back to 3000 people, other journals can do it too.) When I started subbing in the 90s to Meanjin for instance (with woeful material mind you), I would at least get a form letter rejection along with a ‘subscribe’ bookmark (hint, read the journal before subbing, you fool!) In recent years it’s become handwritten feedback on my Meanjin rejections, which might say as much about the class of Judith Beveridge as much as the tradition itself!

So I do see both sides of it, I do, but in any event, rather than risk this post becoming a rant, I’d like to ask something almost positive. If you can, I’d like to hear about your ‘best rejection(s).’

One I can think of was from Voiceworks back when I was able to submit – it basically told me that they’d every intention of publishing one of my poems, but actually lost it in a shift of office. The issue was already going to print so I missed out. Assuming they weren’t trying to let me down easy, it wasn’t a bad rejection at all.