At some point, every writer reaches a stale mate. You scan your growing stack of contributor copies and don't feel that flutter anymore. You reread your manuscript that has made it so close to being accepted by several excellent presses and yet, it remains unpublished. Friends keep asking, "When is your book coming out?" Don't they know?
You and poetry are breaking up.
It's not like last time.
And you're right, it's not. Now, you have the encouragement of one more seasoned poet to fuel you through this patch. No stranger to rejection, my second full-length manuscript racked up 29 form letters, 5 notes, and 3 semi-finalist/finalist slots over a decade, before I decided to re-examine my efforts. During this time, my first full-length collection launched and my individual poems found homes in an additional 40+ markets. Something wasn't adding up.
If my publication path had been traditional, my second collection would have been snapped up. Instead, I received generous and bittersweet rejections from some of my favorite poetry presses. Why were my individual poems being placed in cutting-edge journals, while my full-length continued to just miss the mark?
Was it the title? experimental form? edgy nature? My hunch is all of the above, along with the ever-present factor of subjectivity. Each individual poem stood well on its own, but the full collection wasn't competitive enough to land a book contract. In the past, some of my favorite poems had been rejected 30-40 times prior to being accepted by world-class journals. Would I be willing to spend another few years and few hundred dollars to submit this full-length or was there something I could do to bring the joy back into submitting?
By 2018, my second full-length manuscript differed in title, bookend poems, and some structural elements from the one submitted in 2008 *and* it was receiving even less serious consideration. A year prior, though, I had started an experiment and it was working. Combing through all of my individual published poems, I set aside the ones that I most enjoyed sharing at readings and online. I was shocked, when I noticed that the majority of these were not included in the full-length I had been shopping.
Although I had enough poems for an alternate full-length, the themes were too disparate to form a cohesive longer collection. What quickly emerged were 3 chapbooks, accepted by 3 small presses all within the span of 1 year. Stay tuned for that story and more tips on unifying your chapbook through theme, in my second post slated for October. Today, I'd like to offer you a decision tree on how to re-engage with your work in a way that may bring the love back into your poetry submissions.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni is the author of four poetry collections and a licensed naturopathic doctor in WA State. Her most recent chapbook, A Nation (Imagined), won the 2018 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Natasha’s writing has been featured in over sixty-five publications including Verse, Indiana Review, Entropy, The Rumpus, and the recently released Terrapin Press anthology, A Constellation of Kisses. As a former editor for a small, literary journal, a panelist for residency and grant award committees, and a chapbook contest judge, Natasha loves supporting fellow writers. She owns and operates Helios Center for Whole Health, PLLC which offers naturopathic medical appointments, medical writing, and poetry manuscript consultations. Please visit natashamoni.com and helioswholehealth.com for more information on how to work with Natasha.