Thursday, November 19, 2009

Loading the canon, 2

While in Bowling Green, I sat in on a panel discussion of editors. The theory was that other lit mag editors would attend. But the organizers recognized that other people might come to hear what editors were looking for. And lo, we did.

Right away, someone asked whether editors still had the feeling of reading a submission and saying, "Wow! This is amazing!"; the flip side being just so much slush.

The response from the panelists was unanimous. They all felt the Wow! on a regular basis, and some editors told of going to editorial meetings and needing to fight for the work that wowed them. That gave me a more immediate picture of why I sometimes receive rejection notes that say, "Made it to the final round." Still a disappointment, but it's possible that someone went to advocate for it. Someone thought it belonged.

However, one editor said that he was looking for writers or work that might eventually become a part of the canon. (Oh, no pressure, though.)

What?

I've just been trying to write the best poems that I can, and suddenly they're supposed to be canon fodder?

I haven't sent anything out since, feeling now more than ever that everything must be scrutinized again. As if that will help. As if I feel ready for that level.

And then again, there are plenty of other magazines. But who, when presented with a high bar, wants to lower it? William Stafford—but who else?

Back to the poetry board...

2 comments:

Kells said...

Hi Joannie,

I haven't been submitting either, but let's just do it.

Editors always try to say important things on panels, but the truth is we never know what we like until we read it (this is why soliciting rarely works...)

Anyway, you miss 100% of the shots you never take (to quote Wayne Gretsky).

My advice is don't overthink it, just send out your favorite poems to your favorite journals.

That's what I do. ;-) Good luck.

Susan Rich said...

Hi Joannie,

Aim high, medium, and outside the box - that's been my mantra lately. I just had a poem taken by a new on-line journal called Diode based in Saudi Arabia -- that was my outside the box submission -- and it feels great. I'm also a new blogger on the block...which thankfully seems to have a publish button - not a rejection button ..yet.