Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The usefulness of rejection

Rejection can be immensely useful. Apart from teaching us anger management and giving us an excuse to redecorate that spot where the coffee mug somehow smashed, it's a filter and a warning, dropping a hint that our work might not be ready, indicating which poems might not be on the money, encouraging us to graft once more. Those mights, of course, are due to the vagaries of taste, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog!

In fact, I feel that renowned poets run the risk of never having this chance. Certain editors are keen to have a famous name adorning their mag, so they are liable to take work even if it's not 100% convincing.

In this context, I was interested the other day to read an interview with American poet, Matthew Siegel, in which he discussed his prize-winning collection, Blood Work, which had previously been a runner-up elsewhere in a different form. Here's his view on that process:

“I thank my lucky stars that they didn’t take that book,” he said. “I mean, it’s a great prize — I would have been thrilled to win it — but the book wasn’t ready. And it’s so much better now."

Siegel is also very interesting on his countless magazine rejections. You can read the full piece here.


  1. A person at my local writers group said that they received a rejection slip saying "You have no natural writing talent ...".

    I can be narked by rejection slips for various reasons. Here are the starts of 2 rejections I've received -

    "This is a great read - it's extremely entertaining and very witty..."

    "Remember Goethe's advice to the misanthropic young Schopenhauer ... if you wish to enjoy (your) life, then you must ascribe value to (love) this world (as it is). Somehow you need to get out of yourself, your intellectual self. ..."

    But I've never been tempted to get the following book from my local public library - "A Writer's Guide to Overcoming Rejection" by Edward Baker (Summersdale Publishers, 1998)

    1. Hi Tim,

      Yes, I've also had a few loopy rejection letters! They're reassuring in a warped kind of way, but that's another post...



  2. Dear Matthew

    Over the years I've had about thirty letters published in different newspapers. I've noticed that if I feel indignant about something and dash a letter off they will usually publish it. However, when I carefully construct a letter that I want them to publish, then they almost never do.

    Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish