Submitting An Essay To The New Yorker
To make oneself vulnerable is to take a risk, and while we obviously always want to hear a “yes,” I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently wrong with a “no”.
This sounds counterintuitive, but I try to treat rejection almost as an opportunity.
Even if I truly thought a poem would have been a perfect fit for the journal I sent it to, and even if it hurts to learn otherwise, which it sometimes does, that rejection sends me back to the work, where I belong.
It returns me to where I began, to what I actually care about, which is writing.
This, however, can pose its own obstacles when finding one’s footing: especially with social media, but even outside it, the poetry world can feel extremely public and fast-paced, creating a lot of pressure, actual and perceived.
I admire technical skill, but clever tricks and performative indulgences resonate far less than when a poem’s craft is in service to a real spirit of inquiry: when it genuinely wants to figure something out and requires these particular words, sounds, images, and spaces to do so—when the language is the story.
If there’s a secret, for me, it’s to focus on becoming the reader and the writer that you want to be—which is to say, on the reading and the writing. Your love of the art is all you can really count on. Anything I would offer—“poets should strive for concrete imagery,” or whatever—might be true some of the time, but could never be true all the time, not for every poet or certainly every poem: some poems have no interest in and would not be improved by concrete imagery, and they’re not lesser poems for it.
Let the practice, the process, be what ultimately matters. I guess metaphor comes to mind, metaphor in its in many forms, from idiom to allegory—any time we ask language to point in a direction away from itself, one word to illuminate another, which we do all the time and often unconsciously.
It isn’t so simple, but, also, it is: write what you want to write, pursue what challenges you, remain open to possibility.
There’s no magic key, no perfect hack, to unlock poetic “success”—and if there was, would any of us really want to know it?