Cortney Lamar Charleston of the Rumpus Recommends...

Extending rejection is my most upsetting responsibility as a poetry editor; as a poet, I know rejection is daunting to face because of the negative feelings it stirs in us. Consider all that care and conviction poured into the ink: It is so easy to feel that we, personally, are being excluded, diminished, ignored when our work is not accepted—because is that not us on the page? Undoubtedly it is, and that is why we need discernment in choosing who we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with, so to speak.

A common variation on this idea is the advice to familiarize yourself with the tastes of a press or periodical. I advise taking it further to consider its politics and ethos to ensure the greatest chance that your work will be recognized and respected for how it aims to confront the world. Doing so can help quiet the feelings rejection stirs (whenever it comes) that distract from the work of refining your poems, providing clarity of focus.

But, candidly, no periodical or press deserves to have their hands on your work if it is not invested in it beyond currencies material or of attention. To have greater confidence that a publisher shares your beliefs, look for its stated values. Watch who and what it promotes on its platforms; listen to how it is referenced by other authors. When poet and publisher do partner, I believe there are, in fact, two promises the publisher is making to the poet: first, to distribute the work to its greatest ability and, second, to believe in said work wholeheartedly. The second promise is far more vital for poets to confirm before they commit to a publisher, especially for a collection.

Cortney Lamar Charleston, poetry editor, the Rumpus

Photo credit: Nicholas Nichols