This will be a short one, but since I got a rejection letter today, I thought I’d share it with all of you. Not that this is my first rejection letter. I’ve gotten them for every single poem and short story that I’ve sent out to date. I haven’t counted them up, but I’m nowhere near the 100 I feel that I need to receive before my stuff starts getting published. Plus, contests are notoriously hard to win, even though they guarantee that the winning poem/short story will be published.
So, I sent three poems last month to the Al Savard Poetry Contest. The letter I got today announced the poems and authors that won first, second, and third prize, as well as an honorable mention. No, I did not get an honorable mention, either. Since most rejection letters merely say that your work “did not win,” I did appreciate the fact that this form letter explained the reasoning behind choosing the winning poems. I hope the poems are good. There’s nothing worse than reading something that won an award in a contest you entered, and feeling that your work was ten times better, kind of like most of the poetry I’ve read in the New Yorker. Maybe my taste in poetry is too classical to love the “deep meanings” of the prose-filled dribble that invest many of the poems in that magazine. Not that I haven’t read poems that are good, or even astounding, in there. But, with a year’s subscription from several years ago that I’m still reading (got three months or so to go!), I’ve only come across two poems that moved me, and maybe a handful more (by a Nobel Prize-winning poet, no less) that I enjoyed reading. Then again, that magazine no longer supports unpublished writers: all of the stories and poems in that collection are from published figures looking to promote their latest works.
The most frustrating thing, perhaps, is that contests prove nothing by the losers. In some cases, it proves nothing by the winners, either. I mean, books that win the Pulitzer Prize are usually good, but great books are great regardless of what prizes they don’t win, and awful books are awful regardless of prizes they do win. So my not winning these contests only means that the judge liked other poems better than mine–and in poetry, that can be a very subjective thing.
I still have two more contests to hear from, so maybe I’ll at least get an honorable mention for one of them. All I can do is continue to write and submit, write and submit.