I have been submitting poems for publication.
I began last summer, with the awareness that, for a while, I’m essentially going to be submitting requests for rejection letters. With that in mind, I thought I’d start big–thus my first submissions and subsequent rejections came from Poetry and Ploughshares.
It was kind of nice to get a few out of the way and save myself the indignity of first rejections coming from some no-name journal that accepts more than 2 out of every thousand-or-so submissions.
Okay, really, it’s less about indignity and more the staggering fear of failure that comes with asking someone to publish your work.
But now comes the nitty-gritty. The systematic sending out of poems that I am proud of–phrases I’ve honed and reluctantly revised at the recommendations of skillful friends.
Submit. Wait. Fret. Receive rejection email. Scour over poem, second guess all my choices, my themes, my words. Sigh. Send to the next publication on the list.
There is a kind of rhythmic quality to this kind of risk. I’m reminded of a model of addiction that I saw once, where the addict cycles around a clock face. In some sense I feel this applies–
1 o’clock: vainglory sets in and the itch to publish begins.
3 o’clock: hours are spent on the internet researching which journals accept poems in similar styles to my own.
4 o’clock: choosing poems (good poems, but not the best ones, because what if those got rejected?).
6 o’clock: editing cover letters and entering personal info into website submission systems.
7 o’clock: the point of no return (this is the point in the addiction model where no intervention will help, the addict must now carry out the cycle to its completion–anxiety’s driving up the cortisol and the brain wants its dopamine).
8 o’clock: paste poems into a document with cover letter.
10 o’clock: pour a whiskey and double check the journal’s multiple-submission policy just to be sure I can submit that sonnet I sent to another journal last week (who publishes sonnets anymore?).
11 o’clock: click submit. Close that tab in the browser. Open up netflix. Bask in that dopamine and further anesthetize anxiety with an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
12 o’clock: go to bed and forget about the rush until the next time the clock starts ticking (usually with the next rejection email).
So it goes.
So it goes.