Wayne Gretzky and poetry

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Becoming a published poet is all about failure. It’s all about becoming Wayne Gretzky trying to be where the puck is going to be, not where it is. Trying to read the mind of your editor, to know what she wants before she knows it herself. This post could be Kipling and poetry, except RK wrote poetry, and to the best of my knowledge never scored in a game of ice-hockey.

‘if you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same’

The poet needs to keep on keeping on, to allow the mountain of rejection slips to grow, to pin them on the wall, to target a hundred or so a year. As a poetry editor I know that rejection often doesn’t indicate that the quality of the work is unsatisfactory. Often it reflects a poor match between the tastes of the poet and the preferences of the editor. Often it can just be about supply and demand,space, how the work fits in with the contextual settings of a specific issue. Not always of course, a poem can be execrable, trite, offensive-it doesn’t necessarily follow however, that the poet is any of these.

You miss out on 100% of publication in magazines that you don’t send work off too, or competitions you don’t enter. There are caveats here. Most competitions are a money making racket or a ‘prizes for the boys’ gratuitous exercise in clubbable back-slapping. Choose carefully. Magazines too, some charge to inspect poems, some imply that a subscription will facilitate publication. Over the last ten years the racket has expanded incrementally with the growth in Creative Writing degree courses. It’s a murky world where editors sully themselves by accepting work from the bottom of the slush pile for personal remuneration, don’t go there.

So there it is, take your shots, set yourself a target of rejection slips and watch the offers of publication trickle in.

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