Your Loss, Toots

I spent ten days in the United Kingdom recently. While I was gone I received three rejections, from Slice, Copper Nickel, and Barn Owl Review. I also lost the Short Grain contest for the umpteenth year running, though (perhaps strangely) I don’t really count that as a rejection, even though the mechanism is almost identical in scope and practice.

However, after I got back, I did get a single acceptance: for its sixth issue, due out next April, Sugar House Review has taken a poem I wrote called “Tryst.” I’m excited about this, both because it’s a newer piece (there’s something disheartening when the rare acceptance shows poems five—or even nearly twenty—years old being chosen over more recent work; makes me feel as if I’m getting worse instead of better) and because I really like SHR’s enthusiasm, aesthetic, and care. Any publication that sends page proofs to its contributors before going to press gets a gold star in my grade book.

With the submission I made yesterday to the delinquent, my backlog now stands at 12 new poems and 17 submissions—not quite yet at the tipping point where I would declare it unmanageable. This weekend I hope to finish up at least five submissions, especially with so many reading periods having just reopened for the school year, and I have a couple of poems that might reach first-finished-draft stage if I shirk enough of the zillion other things I’m supposed to be doing.

I take a disproportionate glee in one aspect of the paperwork that follows an acceptance: sending out withdrawal notices to all the other journals who were still considering the piece. Few things make me smile like the phrase “another publication has just accepted this poem, and so I must withdraw it from consideration.” Because in my mind, what I’m saying is “too late, hot plate.”

Just Passing Through

I’ve just found out that Hugh Fox passed away on September 4th. I was in Edinburgh at the time, possibly sleeping, or drinking coffee in a castle, or staring at the Stone of Destiny. I never knew him, but I’ve got a poem in the next issue of Liebamour alongside his work, and have been putting together the first issue of Constellations, which will feature four of his poems. I’d hoped he’d have been able to see it before he went, but I suppose it wasn’t to be.

You get on a train; there’s a man sitting across from the seat you take. On a good day maybe you make eye contact once. On rare occasions perhaps the two of you exchange a word or three about the delay, or the book you’re reading. Then he gets off three stops later and is gone from your life forever, just a ripple on the surface of the water that effortlessly reclaims its stillness in a shoulder shrug.

Most days the man alighted before you even got on. There’s a fading heat signature from the plastic seat he occupied. Maybe he left his newspaper, creased in a certain way.