For whatever reason(s), some poets and presses don’t seem to like to talk about subject matter related to poetry acceptance/rejection, how much they do or don’t submit, and how many submissions their presses receive etc… but I will. Maybe this is inappropriate or unprofessional by some people’s standards, but why? Maybe it will make me seem unpopular by some people’s standards, but oh well. I have no desire to force my way or fake my way into the popular zone.
I remember when I was younger and got more bummed out by rejections and tended to take them too personally. Once I ended up having my poetry accepted by a lot of sources, rejections didn’t bother me much – because I started to perceive it more like obviously my work wasn’t going to be everyone’s/every presses style. I mean do I like everyone else’s poetry? No way. And sometimes when I don’t like it, it’s not because it’s poorly written or clichéd or otherwise crappy. SOMETIMES it’s for reasons like that – but other times, it’s well written, but just not my style. Not that I have any ONE style. There are numerous styles I like and numerous styles I don’t like, when it comes to poetry, visual art, and lots of other things too.
Aside from my own poetry’s acceptance and rejection, what’s changed my perspective even more in recent years is running my own small poetry press, Blood Pudding Press. When I hear someone sound really bummed about having a chapbook manuscript rejected (not just some individual poems, but a whole manuscript), I can somewhat relate to that on a poet level, but I can also think about it on a press/publisher level and here’s part of how I feel about it on that publisher level.
My Blood Pudding Press is pretty itty bitty. It’s not academic (or anti-academic) or associated with any particular organization; it’s just a one woman gig of publishing unique, ribbon-bound, hand-designed poetry chapbooks – only a few a year, so that I can also focus on my own reading, writing, submitting, art stuff, other stuff. (Some poets/publishers are way better at multi-tasking than I am; not me; I’m not going to force myself to pick up my pace and then go bonkers).
The last few years, in order to choose which chapbooks I’m going to publish, I’ve run a chapbook contest. For this year’s contest, I was accepting submissions for one month and received well over 50 submissions. In the 50s is probably a very small amount of submissions compared to what college based or other more well-known, large scale presses receive – and might even be a small amount related to what some other small presses receive. But 50+ was a good number of submissions for me.
Of the more than 50 submissions I received, I only plan to choose two for publication. So far I'm not even halfway through reading them all and there's already way more than two that definitely deserve to be published, so it is going to be tough narrowing it down. I imagine it works similarly for many other small poetry presses, especially the presses that are not academically based (and I’m not talking about content there; I’m talking about being associated with a university, which has a lot of different readers and covers the publishing fees and etc…).
If you are a small press that is handled by just one individual poet (or less than one handful of individual poets), then those who handle the press can either choose to focus mostly on publishing (barely spending any time at all on their own personal writing/art/creative work – unless they have a speed racing, multi-tasking style), so that they can manage to publish more than just a few of the people who deserve to be published - OR they can choose to publish just a few of the people who deserve to be published and also have time remaining to focus on their own creative flow.
Obviously, this works somewhat differently for every individual and I’m just speaking for myself. As with many other aspects of life, I think I am pretty “in between” with this, but I choose to focus on BOTH (my own writing/submitting AND publishing others) – and for me personally, if I focused much more on publishing, then that would hugely outweigh my own creative flow and then I’d be really unhappy.
With all that said though, again, of the 50+ chapbook submissions I recently received for my Blood Pudding Press and am currently reading, I’ll bet there’s going to be more than two HANDFULS of them that deserve to be published – and it will be tough narrowing it down to only two.