It's the season again: Rejections arrive in the mailbox like a flock of crows. While disappointment—and the very rare excitement of acceptance—can be delivered at any time of year, the No notes seem to clump up in larger bunches right before the end of the school year the end of the calendar year.
We've all heard it: In poetry, a plethora of rejections is almost a requirement, almost a symbol of achievement. (Having sent work out for a couple of decades, I've paid my dues, and I keep paying.) But as I open the envelopes and extract the thin, mostly preprinted slips, I start thinking of where I can send to next or do I need to revisit these poems or is this the best use of my time and why am I doing this?
Why write? Is it for the approval of acceptance? (The purist in me says, "No"; the realist, "At least partly.") Is it for the love of language? Yes. Is it the fact that, unlike dance, I don't need good knees? Or because I hunger to be good at something? It's a form of meditation, of reaching another part of myself? Or it makes me happy, even when it feels torturous?
Would I write if I never sent another thing out to another journal? Would I write if I never showed my work to anyone—not even family or friends?
I've asked these questions more than enough times (my son would say, "a frillion") and I haven't answered any of them yet.
Why write? I haven't yet figured out how not to write.