Booking It: A Quest for Publication Part 3: Good News/Bad News
So, some good news: I submitted a poem. Do you know what a gigantic chore it is for me to collect my druthers and answer a call to submission? Kids having meltdowns in the toy aisle have dragged their feet less than a Jeremy sending poems to a magazine. Our old Aerostar with the broken starter turned over with less argument than me deciding to which magazine I should submit. Republicans and Democrats have yielded to compromise easier than I have slowed for long enough to put a small manuscript together.
It was Friday night and I cleared my schedule, I turned off Netflix, set my wine aside (ONLY FOR A MOMENT, NAPA), took a breath and just did it.
So, some bad news: after all the gnashing of teeth, the wrestling of alligators, the putting down of psychological hurricanes—my poem was rejected.
Now is a good time to talk through the mental gymnastics, and the philosophical ponderings, of putting creative work out to the world: What is so difficult about submitting my poems? How do I motivate myself to get my work out there?
Our questions can also take a step or two farther back. What is behind the desire to have my work on display in the first place? Is the putting into words the foggy chemicals of the heart, and its rush of endorphins at the final punctuation, not enough of a reward? If an artist paints a falling tree, and nobody hangs it in their gallery, does it still crash and shudder?
Then we can take a step sideways: Why does my work deserve to be published? Is it actually good? Is it worthwhile? Who decides its value once it leaves my fingertips? Does the world need another perspective from a white, straight man? Should a rejection hurt, or even matter? These are questions all artists need to consider, honestly and repetitively, as we show our work.
I talked myself into submitting, finally, because while organizing my writing (like we talked about), I was pleasantly surprised and energized how good my poems were. For sure, my files have their share of throwaway exercises, word-play, and emotional vomit—and however amusing, these should never see the light of day. But I have my share of gems, too; poems which month after month, year after year, maintain their vibration and mass.
Feeling the reverberation in my poems echoed the reactions I hear, but don’t always trust, from friends about my poems. And this harmonization from within and without allowed me to step up, put my laziness and reservations aside, and trust that others might just like my work, that there might be something universal in it that transcends a moment of my life. I hope.
I welcome the rejection. Not, this time, as a scar of a ritualized passage, but as a sign that this heavy ball is rolling.