A few weeks ago I got the yearly rejection letter from my press of choice, which is a lot of people’s press of choice, and which is the publisher of many of my friends’ wonderful books. It feels taboo to talk about it, not to mention disloyal, because one of my very favorite friends just got her book accepted, and I couldn’t couldn’t couldn’t couldn’t be happier for her. Every single one of my friends who has a nice book from this nice press absolutely deserves it, but I want to talk about the grief of being rejected not just by a press but by a group of friends. I know I’m not the only person who feels it, but that doesn’t make me feel like any less of a jerk for complaining. I'm hoping that if I write this out, these totally unreasonable feelings will dissipate.
I am a pretty plucky submitter of poetry—I’ve been sending out poems almost nonstop for almost eleven years, and even during my new-love-with-Amy-gave-me-writer’s-block years I managed to send out poems and get them accepted. I am GREAT at getting rejection letters. (There’s a parallel storyline here that I’m sick of talking about…)
My manuscript is out in the world. It doesn’t just wait around for this one press every year, and it keeps improving as time goes along. But there’s something I just can’t get past about this one particular press.
I think it’s because this particular rejection reminds me of the lonely feeling I got when I left my first group of poetry friends in California to move back east—I was afraid for the longest time that I couldn’t be a poet without them, that they were forgetting me, that failing to live in Orange County made me a failure as a poet. One by one or all at once those friends created dazzling success for themselves that I couldn’t even fathom, and one by one they’ve gotten books with spines and I’ve applauded and supported and celebrated them but also I’ve just felt like I’d die because Iwant a book so bad and just can’t seem to get there.
Sometimes it feels exactly like not being lovable.
It hurts my feelings, Heartbreak Press. There’s a flaw in my personality that makes me sure I don’t belong anywhere, so your rejection feels like not just a rejection of my poems, but a rejection of me, and not just by a press but by the family, by the entire poetry community. My friends who’ve made it don’t see what the big deal is, they say just keep sending the book out, and I will, of course I will. But, I’m ashamed to say, the fact that you don’t love it makes me love it less.
Last week I started to settle into my teacher classes. I started to get excited about my school observations and everything I’m going to learn. Sometimes I wish I could just focus on teaching and leave poetry behind for the same reasons I wish I could leave this new endeavor of polyamory behind: my poems and my face are tired of trying to be lovable enough to capture their/your attention—sometimes I wish I could just give them a break and love them for themselves.