Help Wanted – Desperate for a rejection slip!Edit
By David Taub
The truth about us poets, who share our writing with others, and even if some tell you otherwise, is that ultimately we do enjoy positive feedback about our writing! If I had just a dollar for every individual who has 'secretly confided in me' that they were thrilled their poem had been accepted by publisher x,y,z, I could spend the rest of my life writing everything for free. Overall, my experience is that very few publishers, who accept a submitted poem, respond with a lengthy letter overflowing with 'flattery'.
It was few years ago when I first received a letter from someone excitedly telling me they had received such a letter, and they also went to the trouble of sending me a photocopy of the 'acceptance'.
Everyone has to start somewhereEdit
I was naive about who was who in the poetry publishing market. In fact I was living in England at the time and had never heard of the 'publisher' in question. But there was something VERY suspicious about this acceptance letter. Having said that, I am very suspicious of any 'form letter' - namely a standard letter which has probably never been touched by a human hand. My suspicions were quickly confirmed when the same publisher's name cropped up several more times in quick succession, and I then managed to obtain copies from the various jubilant poets.
And let's face it, what novice wouldn't be thrilled to receive a letter starting "After carefully reading and discussing your poem, our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist....." And there's more: "In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly sought after collections we have ever promised ..." In fact a novice's head could easily swoon, and their chest burst with pride when told, "Before we go any further, (poets name inserted), let me make one thing clear ... your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision."
Several years down the line I am amassing a wonderful collection of these letters. Courtesy of some 'interesting characters' who came to my assistance in an interesting experiment. Their names include: Stephen AbutLOL, Wadda (ass) Iyam, and the most recent, Wergle Flomp. These characters discovered that with the wonders of the Internet, the 'publishing company' whose 'Selection Committee carefully reads and discusses' all the submissions, now accepts submission at their website www.poetry.com
It was a curiosity on my part as to how 'awful' a poem has to be before a letter is issued along the lines of "Thanks for your submission but.... NO THANKS!"
Wots a pomeEdit
Stephen AbutLOL's first attempt to fail the acceptance test with "Wots a pome", was abysmal. When I shared this experiment with my readers in the UK poetry magazine (Poetry Now), one reader commented that perhaps it was not awful enough because the first four lines had a vague 'rhythm and rhyme' to it!:
Wot's a pome if it don't rhyme have to make it beat with time Very serious stuff is pomes you can write them in your homes.
Hmm back to the drawing board, and not to be thwarted, Stephen's second attempt was expected to draw a letter along the lines of "If you continue to submit drivel like this, we shall have to seek a restraining order." Unfortunately, he failed again and received great acclaim for "Nicky Nacky Noo"
Nicky Nacky Noo Tum tum tum de tum This is apoem I sings a lot to make me very vary hapy. I fink it will look good on a poster two. and a cofey mug to shows my frineds at work so they no i am an internashunal poet who mite even winz a prise! Then i wuld be vary famus and hav lotz of muney wich wuld be vary funny coz some of them sayd I was eliterite wich sucks (I hopes I can say sucks, if not please put a defferent word instead.) and also I just sore the poem has to be 20 lines long so I am counting the lynes again. This is line nienteen and this in number twenty. Thanx. The End Stephen Abutlol
Unfortunately the seeking of clarification as to whether or not he could use the word 'sucks' somehow was considered to be part of the poem too. And there they are on full display amongst the searchable database of all 1.4 million submissions which can be checked through at http://www.poetry.com/Publications/search.asp
This was proving to be a tough competition indeed! How to bring the 'Selection Committee' to a collective outburst of outrage rather than praise and admiration!
Next up to the plate steps Wadda ass Iyam (although the acceptance letter does not recognise or acknowledge Wadda's middle name).
Yew Gotta Larf. Yew gotta larf at any moreon who could write, "your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision." when we all know this is about as artistic as vomitting on the neigbour's porch. Burp... huey... excuse me while I be artistic on your cat.. so much for the vision.. I never saw your cat. Now let's get down to the real truth.. You hope I am fooled into parting with my cash to see this in your anthology. Wot if NO-ONE bought your books, mugs plaques, keyrings? (have you thought of musical toilet-roll holders?) I look forward to receiving your standard letter telling me how artistic this drivel is. If nothing else, I get a free envelope which I can recycle. Bert
This had to be the one that broke the poetic back, don't you think? Under his pen name 'Bert' was counting on one of the 'Selection Committee' being an avid cat lover, whereby Bert could be rightfully accused of encouraging animal abuse! Not a chance. Wadda now proudly stands toe to toe with Stephen, and "Yew Gotta larf" is also on proud display for the whole cyber world to admire!
It was with some disappointment today, Wergle Flomp received a letter from poetry.com for his poem: Flubblebop flobble bobble blop yim yam widdley woooo oshtenpopple gurby yip yip yip nish-nash nockle nockle opfem magurby voey Ahh! "Wurby tictoc?" "quefoxenjib masaloouterp!" bim-burm nurgle shliptog afttowicky wicky wicky erm addmuksle slibberyjert ! Reqi stoobery bup dinhhk yibberdy yobberdy hif twizzum moshlap dwisty fujefti coppen smoppen dob tigtog turjemy fydel saxtenvurskej brisleywum swiggy swiggy swug yumostipijjle dobers! Copyright Wergle Flomp January 2000
He was informed, "In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly sought after collections of poetry we have ever published... Promises of Love (ISBN 1-58235-065-5)".
However, on a slightly upbeat and encouraging note for Wergle, this acceptance was not accompanied with an additional 'bonus' that Stephen Abutlol had previously received. There was no note saying they had also selected the piece to be read by a 'professional reader', to be put on audio cassette. Neither Wergle or I can imagine why! What is difficult about reciting " Reqi stoobery bup dinhhk"? One can only assume that Romantic poetry is better read off the page!
At the time of writing this, Wergle's poem had not been posted on the website where Stephen's and Wadda's fine masterpieces can be displayed and enjoyed. But given time who knows? However, I still remain very keen to see what a poetry.com 'rejection slip' looks like.
On a slightly different twist, having had several emails from poetry friends, I want to make it quite clear - NO I have not and never would submit their poetry to this 'publishing house'. This is in response to my being informed they had discovered some of their work had appeared on the site without their knowledge or permission, having searched and found their name!
And, for what little consolation it is, I even discovered a poem of mine had been 'acquired' and posted on their site. At one point, I did have a phone number for poetry.com and I contacted them asking how this could have possibly happened. Unfortunately I was passed around between their 'customer service' staff without any explanation. Surprisingly, it was not possible for me to speak with any of the 'Selection committee'. In exasperation, I wrote to them, threatening that both I and my publisher would sue them for breach of copyright. Fortunately that did the trick.
If anyone else has more luck, than Stephen AbutLOL, Wadda (ass) Iyam and Wergle Flomp, in extracting a 'rejection slip' from this organisation, I would be delighted to see a copy! I am of the understanding they also promote themselves under the names: National Library of Poetry and International Library of Poetry.
Copyright retained, David Taub () 2000 & 2001
First published (Hard-copy) The Legend, West Florida, Literary Federation Inc., September 2000
Revised for Rejectioncollecvtion.com - Feature article of the month, 2001
Copyright David Taub (UKpoet@aol.com), 2001
David Taub is a member of The British organisation 'National Union of Journalists' (NUJ); The Florida Writers' Association; Columnist for the UK magazine 'Poetry Now'; Freelance writer for various UK and USA magazines; Co-author of Language of Souls (listed on amazon.com)