"You are not knife wound, not sword swallower, not fallout. You are sky."

POETRY REJECTION #48/100: The Adroit Journal

Dear William James,

Thank you for submitting [eight poems] to The Adroit Journal. After a careful review of your submission, the staff has decided that this work is not quite right for the journal at this time.

You’re always welcome to send us what you’ve got, as long as you don’t exceed any of the genre limits (eight poems, three prose pieces, and eight works of art), so we highly encourage you to share more work with us. Either way, best of luck to you, and we hope to hear from you again soon!

Peter LaBerge
The Adroit Journal

This is pretty much how I’m feeling about this whole poetry submission/rejection game, to be honest. In case any of y’all read that last one and started to worry.

POETRY REJECTION #47/100: Lockjaw Magazine

Dear William,

We tend to give quick first reads to submissions the minute they role in.  The Fugazi one caught our eyes, respectively, because Fugazi are the greatest.  God how we wanted to love that Fugazi poem.  But it really—at least on the first read—just made us want to go listen to Fugazi.  So we did that.  We listened to the “Floating Boy” demo off of Instrument.  And then we listened to the rest of Instrument.  And then we jumped back and listened to 13 Songs because it had been a really long time since we’d listened to that album.  And they’re so different!  But there’s a real cohesion from one song to the next on each album, and there’s, too, a real cohesion between the two albums and everything in between.  They’re not carbon copies of one another, but they’re clearly of a piece.  There’s this great moment in Instrument—the film—where the band’s recording Red Medicine, or maybe not recording, but playing through one of the songs in the house, and they stop and are discussing, and one of them says something like (I’m paraphrasing here), “…we were all playing kind of the same thing and were really locked in with each other and it wasn’t quite working and then we kind of split apart and it sounded like—well—like us…”  They knew their sound.  They cultivated it.  But knowing their sound also meant that they could subvert it in really productive ways.  That’s how it is with any artist’s style.  The style, once defined, functions (or can function) as the barometer.  

So there’s no barometer here, in these poems.  That’s the thing we keep coming up against.  We’ve come back to them a second time, a third time, a fourth.  A fifth, maybe?  They’ve been given their fair due, is our point.  No barometer, we keep concluding.  No unifying thing (style, theme, motif, subject—whatever).  Another way of saying this—and please know that we don’t mean this in a dismissive way—is that these poems all feel like exercises.  They feel very much like a workshop packet, or like a packet of work generated over a semester of workshops, and that’s certainly a comparison that we’re making only because it’s easy to hand—because we’ve been in workshops and workshop-like environments and seen this sort of aesthetic-of-assortment on display.  We’re all about a writer not just repeating the same thing over and over—pushing into new stylistic territory on a regular basis.  The best thing about Fugazi is that they stopped being Fugazi and now there’s The Evens and Joe Lally’s doing his solo stuff and Guy Picciotto will randomly show up on stage with Vic Chesnutt(!).  But there’s still a through-line for each of those guys, y’know?  You can hear how what each of them were doing in Fugazi fits in with their current projects.  So we’re maybe more in favor of seeing the kinds of experiments and stylistic change-ups that are taking place here from one poem to the next—we’re maybe more in favor of seeing those take place over the course of a lifetime, from one book to another, or one cycle to another or at the very least from one publication to another, not from one poem to another.  Because from one poem to another: that kind of rapid changing: it’s that barometer thing again.

Briefly, because we kept discussing these poems—from the first read—individually, rather than as a packet and then zeroing in on particulars: “Fable of Wolf & Ape” feels too self-aware—too intentionally “serious” if that makes sense.  Is it just us or is it trying to do some sort of stilted, TV Indian English?  We can’t decide.  Not working for us, at any rate.  The Fugazi poem is fine, but Fugazi’s lyrics are already pretty poetic, allusive, evocative, and this doesn’t do anything with them that they don’t already do on their own just fine.  ”Contents of Backpack…” doesn’t really move beyond the conceit of the title.  The last one is the one we like the most, but it doesn’t move beyond being kind of clever.  It doesn’t self-implicate in the way we want it to.  The title implies confession, then the poem begins as joke, formal exercise, etc., and never returns to confession.  And we want that return.  We want it to crumble beautifully, but it doesn’t.  It just sits there.

Sorry for maybe harping on the Fugazi thing too much, but they were a handy point of reference, we thought.  

It’s all downhill from here.

All the best,


A lot of my poems anymore are just about how punk rock and church are, for me, the same thing. Hallelujah, y’all.

A lot of my poems anymore are just about how punk rock and church are, for me, the same thing. Hallelujah, y’all.

POETRY REJECTION #46/100: decomP

Dear William,

Thank you for submitting to decomP. We apologize for the delayed response and, though we’re passing on your work, please feel welcome to submit again in the future.

Jason Jordan
decomP magazinE

POETRY REJECTION #45/100: Phoebe

Dear William,

Thank you for your recent contribution to Phoebe. While we enjoyed reading it, the piece does not meet our current publishing needs.

However, we enjoyed this piece and your writing voice and would welcome submissions from you in the future.

Elizabeth Deana Morris Lakes & Qinglan Wang

POETRY REJECTION #44/100: Jellyfish Magazine

Dear William James,

Thank you for your submission to Jellyfish! Although we appreciate the chance to read your work, we’re going to have to pass on it for this issue. We hope that you consider us again in the future!

Thanks again!

The Editors
Jellyfish Magazine

POETRY REJECTION #43/100: The Boiler

Dear William James,

Thank you for the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately this submission was not a right fit for The Boiler at this time.

Kind regards,
The Editors

Danez Smith - “Today”

I’m sitting on my laptop watching the Ustream feed of IWPS finals, and Danez just knocked me off my feet with this poem in the 2nd round. Watch this poem, y’all, watch it many many times.

If you haven’t read anything by Jack Gilbert, BOY HOWDY ARE YOU MESSING UP BIG TIME.

If you haven’t read anything by Jack Gilbert, BOY HOWDY ARE YOU MESSING UP BIG TIME.