Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anyone Need a Snarky Rejection?

Yet another online journal is about to enter the scene. The editor apparently recognizes that there's a lot of competition for our attention, so she's attempting to carve out a niche for her journal. Rude rejections. Great. That's just what poets need.
Here's the relevant excerpt from the call for submissions:
[nameless journal] aims to shake up the literary magazine submissions process by promising honest and at times belligerent responses to poetry submissions. Poetry acceptances need more flattery and rejections need more snark. Expect responses ranging from "This poem is so beautiful it makes me weep" to"Meh" to "Reading this poem makes me want a cartoon anvil to pulverize my skull." 
Why would an editor want to respond with belligerence and snark? For the sake of a cheap laugh at someone else's expense? Sounds like this new editor is in the business of hurting people for the sake of being original. That's not what editors do. Editors are in the business of promoting poetry and poets.
When I checked the masthead, I was not surprised to discover that this editor is a student still in an MFA program. Let's hope she grows up before she does much damage. Such a bizarre intention regarding notifications suggests that this editor is not ready to be an editor. 
She also says that "Publication will be highly selective." That's if she gets any submissions.
To add to the entertainment value of her rejections, the editor will keep a page called "The Wall of Shame." Here she will post angry responses to her snarky rejections—"Passive agressive, nasty, and/or bizarre responses to poetry rejections will be posted here (sans personal identifiers)." How delightful.

For you sissy poets, the editor allows the option of stating in your cover letter that you want to receive a form rejection. 

I say don't bother. Just go somewhere else.


  1. I certainly respect your right to your opinion, but as you've shared it publicly, I’d like to offer a counterpoint to your post. First, I find it refreshing that I might get actual, honest feedback from an editor instead of a generic “unfortunately we are unable to publish you at this time.” If I am confident about my own skill and worth as a poet, having an editor honestly say that my work is not their style, or has elements not appealing to his/her sensibilities, it would be welcome, in one sense. Poets have enough trouble placing their work to keep sending to editors that clearly will never connect to their work. I find the practices of some editors (not responding at all, or sending super-quick rejections, which make it obvious that your work is not welcome, yet still say "we enjoyed reading your work")more troublesome.

    Second, this particular editor is an experienced poet/performer with several “big name” publications under her belt, as well as extensive editing experience. To assume that she is unqualified to be an editor or that she is immature simply because she is currently in an MFA program is somewhat troubling to me. I don’t have an MFA – never will – and that cannot be the “standard” by which we judge whether or not someone is “qualified” to be an editor. The poetry world has plenty of room for new voices and new approaches. If anyone is offended by her sensibilities or her mission for this new journal, then they simply should not submit.

  2. I think it's possible to be honest without being belligerent and snarky. You may be confident about your own skill and worth, but not all poets are. Why crush someone with a nasty response? I didn't suggest that having an MFA qualifies anyone to be an editor or that not having one disqualifies someone; I did suggest that the youth of the editor might make her unprepared for the role of editor. And I did say, as you have, that people can go elsewhere.

    Some of the responses that you find objectionable I also find bothersome, especially the altogether missing response. But the alternative is not some smart-aleck put-down.

  3. I did read this section -" I was not surprised to discover that this editor is a student still in an MFA program. Let's hope she grows up before she does much damage. Such a bizarre intention regarding notifications suggests that this editor is not ready to be an editor. " as an indication that you were equating her student status with her possible skill as an editor. Thanks for clarifying if that was not the intent.

  4. Humor and candor could be all right. If it were specific to the poem, at least you'd know someone had read the thing. The pity of it is that it won't take long to degenerate into form snark. Is anyone taking money on how long it will last?

    1. I love humor, just not at someone else's expense. Form snark--I wonder how that would read? Interesting thought!

  5. The big picture is that there are so many poetry journals these days. For poets, this increases the list of journals and online magazines they could submit to and chances of getting published. For some readers, this offers more variety and for some, this makes it hard to decide what to read.

    Why would someone want to start a new journal? Even if he/she did decide they could read through all submissions and generate specific responses for every poem, why a wall of shame? A good journal shouldn't need a wall of shame to promote itself. The poems it presents should suffice. An inquisitive reader might check out the wall of shame and go backwards to figure out why and which poem caused this response. I think that will be shameful for the journal.

    So, the big picture, this seems silly. I stopped by for 2 mins. I am moving on.

    1. Yes, a new journal would understandably want to offer something that the others do not, but snark won't do it.

  6. Belligerent responses? No thanks. The world is cruel enough.

    I hope other poets feel the same way so that limited interest will cause the young editor to come up with a better idea.

  7. Deliberate nastiness, a "wall of shame?" Kind of pathetic if that's the best gimmick the editor can manage. There's enough meanness and cruelty in the world. Let's hope the editor grows up enough to realize that unkindness isn't a virtue!


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