Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Other Side of Rejection

While making the final selections for the first issue of Blood Orange Review, I found it strange to find myself on the other side of the rejection letter. In my career as a writer, I've collected my share of rejections. I had notions of papering my study wall with them, but I'm too much of a neat-freak and instead I keep them in neatly labeled manila files, Rejections 2000, Rejections 2001, etc.

Here are a few of my favorites, selected from the great archive of rejection:

Howard Junker's admittance in Zyzzyva's rather loquacious form-letter that "I make mistakes; my taste is erratic, my judgment flawed."

From Poetry Northwest (the first one), David Wagoner's petite script on a photocopied slip of paper, "Sorry to say no."

The stately stock of the The Atlantic Monthly form rejection. Every writer deserves to be rejected with such style.

Rejection is an important tool for a writer. It drives a wedge between the writer and her words. It opens enough space for doubt, which is essential not only for revision but for the writer to step back and examine the words as a reader might. As a poet, I am proud of the fact that I can be both sensitive to language and hardened by it. I can listen to that voice of doubt and change. Or, I can toss the form letter in the trash.

The next time you get that thin envelope, or email, just keep Samuel Beckett's advice in mind:

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

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