Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Value of Comments from a Publisher

Recently Steiny sent a group of poems to a magazine that offered feedback for a minor fee that was less than a dollar per poem. Among the poems sent (and rejected) were two in form: a villanelle and a pantoum. For each poem (there were six submitted as allowed), the publisher offered a paragraph of comments, showing that commenter was earnestly trying to fulfill the promise of feedback.

Steiny was shocked to read that her villanelle was referred to as a “broken sonnet” and the pantoum as a “repeating formal poem, highlighting repeat offenses.” The comments of course revealed that the publisher, while not preferring formal poetry, was unschooled in poetic forms. One other jolt was the conjecture that a father-daughter relationship dealt with incest and furthermore, if the topic was incest, no one would publish the poem: “is this incest, or merely young Freudian thought, and who is the voice jealous of? Consider: If it is incest or could easily be read as that, you will have very little luck publishing it and few will want to read it.”

So what did Steiny learn from this feedback? First of all, check the submission guidelines more carefully regarding whether this publisher invites formal poetry. Next, be sure if the publisher is stating that they offer feedback that you check up on who these editors are—do they write poetry? What kind of poetry do they write? Where are they published?  And, of course, read what they are publishing to understand what they select.

Would Steiny submit to this magazine again? No. Steiny cannot respect publishers who set themselves up as critics without having learned all elements of the craft.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

On the Rejection Message

The question is: are all rejection notices the same from a given publication? The Steiny Road Poet would love feedback on this.

For example, Steiny sent poems to The New Yorker on September 2, 2018, and finally got back an answer eight months later on May 6, 2019 which read:

Thank you for submitting to The New Yorker, and for your patience in awaiting a response. Although we won't be carrying your work in the magazine, we are grateful for the opportunity to read and consider it, and we look forward to reading new poems in the future.


Kevin Young, Poetry Editor
Hannah Aizenman, Poetry Coordinator

Sunday, March 24, 2019

On Rejection

How does a working writer weather rejection, whether it is delivered as work declined or negative criticism?

The Steiny Road Poet offers a story which does not sufficiently cover everything asked but points at something that is possibly helpful.

The year Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, Steiny was working for the Department of Energy in the office of the Special Counsel Paul Bloom who had been tasked by Carter’s administration to audit the major petroleum producers to determine how much we consumers had been overcharged at the pump and in other petroleum markets. Being angry that no money had been returned to the public, Bloom decided to give $1000 each to four separate charities which in turn enraged Reagan’s people. So Steiny’s office was unilaterally handed reduction in force (RIF) notices, meaning she (and her colleagues) were fired.

When Steiny reached home that evening, her telephone rang and a voice on the other said, “Congratulations—you have won the Billee Murray Denny award. “Really?” Steiny responded in a weary somewhat skeptical voice. The man paused and then said in a rather disgusted angry way, “You aren’t even excited and you wouldn’t have won except one of the judges had just returned from Australia and your poem mentions Australia.”

So here’s a story of acceptance that turns into a rebuke. Did the Steiny Road Poet then doubt the worthiness of her poem, which by the way was titled, “Bearing Up”? No. The reason was that Steiny had previously sent this poem in an earlier version to a Virginia poetry society contest and they had generously given her feedback which she used to improve the poem.

The lesson learned that day may prove serendipitous but is possibly this—if you send out your work to be judged, be sure you have made every effort to make it your best.

One other tidbit of advice Steiny got from the multi-genre writer Richard Elman is this—not everyone can speak to what you are writing and therefore should not be listened to. More on this in another post.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

How does the Steiny Road Poet pick publications for her individual poems?

The question comes up at a time when Steiny has completed a book-length manuscript of poetry and wants to enhance the marketability of that manuscript. Therefore, she is working fast and hard to get some of the unpublished work accepted in a variety of print and online magazines.

While Steiny has been sending out poems for years and has a long list of publications that she has a) aspired to be published in or b) has already been published in, this doesn’t mean she knows what these publishers want and are requiring today.

STEP 1: Start with top tier publishers, especially the ones that pay money (as opposed to a print copy of the book) for your work.  Scope out ten of these.

STEP 2: Read the websites of these publishers to determine:
·      When they are receiving submissions—park or eliminate those that are not currently open for submissions.
·      What their requirements are and whether you meet these requirements.
·      What is published. Read one or two current issues of this publication to see what the editors favor. If the publication is print edition and you have a nearby university with a Master of Fine Arts program, these magazines might have a library collection of such publications that you can examine onsite. Buying every magazine you want to send to is not something most writers can afford, but certainly buy subscriptions to the magazines you admire the most and can afford.
·      Who this publisher is publishing and how you fit in with that community of writers.
·      When the publisher will make a decision.

STEP 3: Send out your best work and be sure it is carefully edited.
·      Follow the publisher’s guidelines carefully.
·      Use standard fonts that are easy to read, such as Times New Roman in usually 12-point size.
·      Do not send images.
·      If the publisher prefers submissions to come through its online submission system (Submittable or an in-house submission manager), use that. If you don’t know how to use online applications, get someone to teach you how. Most publishers do not want paper, even if they are making concessions.
·      Keep careful records on where you send each poem and be able to access that information by publisher and by poem.

STEP 4: Send to publishers that allow multiple submissions.
·      Send out to three different publishers at a time.
·      Consider where you are sending your poems and whether publication by any of the three publishers would satisfy you.

STEP 5: Determine when to vet the next tier of publishers.
·      Decide your timeline for when to start sending to those publishers who do not pay and who may be newer to the field of publishing. Response times from publishers can vary wildly from a few days to years. Getting a certain percentage of individual poems published can be required from book publishers, should you decide to create a book-length manuscript. So waiting without setting a deadline on when a single poem might get published is not a good idea.
·      Stay the course with the top tier publishers if you get one or two acceptances in rapid succession. Let’s say, in a time frame under three months.
·      Positive feedback may also influence how long you send exclusively to the top tier.
·      Perhaps you have poems that you believe are good but do not fit in with your top tier publishers. If so, determine what you standards are for this tier of publications (e.g. how long has it been publishing? Does it follow its own criteria? How large is its audience? Does it give you a copy of the issue you are published in, if it is print or pdf formats?)
·      Repeat steps 1 through 4 for these publishers.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cooking with Tender Buttons Food: Milk. (subpoem 6)

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           FOOD
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           Milk
WORD COUNT (Total)……...-                111
STANZA(S)............................-             7
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

“Milk.” is the sixth subpoem of Tender Buttons section 2 Food. There are two Milk subpoems and this is the first.

Among the topics discussed for this subpoem were: what happened at the first Thanksgiving celebration; hardship, afflictions/ illness; pregnancy & birth; games—golf & guessing; measurement; food & wordplay; history of golf, and the settlement movement.


A white egg and a colored pan and a cabbage showing settlement, a constant increase.

A cold in a nose, a single cold nose makes an excuse. Two are more necessary.

All the goods are stolen, all the blisters are in the cup.

Cooking, cooking is the recognition between sudden and nearly sudden very little and all large holes.

A real pint, one that is open and closed and in the middle is so bad.

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten.

Guessing again and golfing again and the best men, the very best men.

Did you notice all the words with the letter o? …It's a kind of beholding, a seeing with awe, no?” Karren Alenier


Subpoem 6 “Milk” elicited lots of different thoughts on what it was about. Karren Alenier began the conversation by saying that “Stein connects ‘Milk.’ to ‘Cranberries.’ with the word settlement” and continued:

Hardship seems to be a big theme in this subpoem. Being sick with a cold makes me think of that early Thanksgiving where the settlers were suffering from starvation until they got some help from the native Americans and then things changed.”

The implication is that hardship points to the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Teri Rife further explored the issue of illness:

“As to the colds. From "Sugar:"
The line which sets sprinkling to be a remedy is beside the best cold. [stanza 8 of subpoem 6 “Sugar.”]

“And in this subpoem we have:”
A cold in a nose, a single cold nose makes an excuse. Two are more necessary. [stanza 2 of subpoem 6 “Milk.”]

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten. [stanza 6 of subpoem 6 “Milk.”]

“So, it seems that perhaps a bug has gotten into the system (‘bitten, really bitten’) and the result is a cold:  a cold IN a nose and a cold nose, both (two are more necessary.)  I love the fact that makes an excuse sounds so much like ‘makes an achoo!’ And the word necessary sounds rather sneezy, too.

“This bite, making the skin dark red, may be from a flu bug, or a love bug, or a writing bug (akin to a ‘travel bug’—something which cannot be ignored.  If the love bug which has bitten Stein has given her tender colds (the kind which induce her to write TB), then I can see the meaning of all this:  the best of change, all work, maybe even seen eye holders (spectacles?).  Also, Alice would Tend-her colds, would she not?”

Mary Armour added:

... all the blisters are in the cup

“And I find myself with slight repugnance thinking of the old medical tradition, found in the Victorian medical practice Stein would have known, of cupping boils or blisters. Cupping and blistering were ways of excising infection, cupping worked by creating a suction on the skin. Pus coming out as a milky fluid? And the blisters in the cup, the skin blistering from application of the heated cup.”


Talking about cups brings up measurements—Stein always the scientist is never far from measuring things. Here’s Alenier on this subject:

“Measurement comes into play in this subpoem with these words:
increase and change
cup and pint
very little and all large

“There are also contrasts:
sudden and nearly sudden
open and closed


Changing directions Alenier also commented about a pregnancy and birth theme:

“These words and phrases make me think of pregnancy and birth of a baby:
constant increase
Two are more necessary
nearly sudden very little and all large holes
a real pint
the dark red (maybe bloody show?)”

Seeing connections between “Sugar.”, “Cranberries.”, and “Milk.”, Rife noticed that “the blisters, sudden, red and bitten (teeth & dog—the monster's back).  And guessing is a game, just as golf is.

While Alenier saw the return of the monster, she said this:

“Babies can be little monsters especially as they start to get teeth and don't know the power of teeth.

“If you look at Stanza 6, it begins with the word tender:”

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and bitten, really bitten. 

“As we have previously discussed, the book title Tender Buttons could be referring to belly buttons and because this long poem is about the marriage troth between Gertrude and Alice that includes having babies—these babies are Stein's books, I think ‘Milk.’ is particularly about babies.”


Catching up on Mary Armour’s comment about blisters, Alenier countered:

Blister as bubble, as in balloon where that leads to ideas floating out of the cup of Stein's head!

“Also blister as the pregnant bump and this goes with the bubble-balloon of creation-imagination.”

These comments led to Rife moving from blisters to cooking:

“The bump—both baby and writer's!

“Been thinking about blisters and cooking (burns) and blisters and working (rubbing).  Pressing too hard on your writing instrument results in a dark red blister/bump.  (I speak from personal experience.)  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

“As to various food items and cooking, I've been looking at white egg (egg white), cabbage, goods, and stolen (stollen?) and lots of words associated with the cooking process implements & the measurements Karren mentioned above (pan, cup, pint, (pot)holders), and chemistry (settlement, constant increase, blisterssudden and nearly sudden, very little and all large holes, the best of change.)

“It seems there might be another instance here of the word play with double o's in words (cooking, cooking) coupled with a phrase like "seen eye holders." Are the double ee's in seen the representatives of the two eyes in the holders?  Fun.

“There are pairs of words in the "Cooking" sentence.  1) Cooking, sudden, very little (holes) and 2) Cooking, nearly sudden, all large holes.  Does this refer to rising time prior to baking the stollen resulting in a more or less airy bread structure? The ingredients of stollen include milk, eggs, honey (sugar), yeast, all sorts of dried or candied fruits—all the goods? And is there more word play with all the goods and so bad?  You don't want to put the milk from the pint that has been opened and closed so much that it has gone bad.

“But where does the cabbage fit it?  Eggs and cabbage cooked together do make a good dish, and there is such a thing as a cabbage soufflé. There are some physical features of the cabbage plant that relate to language in this subpoem:  parts that are ovate and cup-shaped leaves.  This seems rather flimsy, though.

“Who are the best men?  Are they the men Gertrude admires—men she would have stand-up for her at her wedding to Alice?”

To this, Alenier asked,

“Did you notice all the words with the letter o?
colored, constant, cold, nose, two, more, goods, stolen, cooking, holes, one, open, closed, so, holders, work, golfing

“It's a kind of beholding, a seeing with awe, no?”

Rife crooned:
OOO, the o's.  Especially the holes, since o's literally look like holes, don't they?  And "hol(e)-ders"--beholders, as you say.”

Alenier pushed back:
I'm thinking about those holes and what goes in them. 

“At the end we have golfing and men. white golf ball in the cup. Men with their pen is applied to the pap-[h]er! Hehe!”

Rife mused:

“Ah, yes. I should have gotten the white ball in the cup. That's what the golfers say they're doing. The genius is re-thinking (cooking is the re-cognition between: 1) sudden and nearly sudden, 2) very little and all large holes) language and the very best men are on the golf course, occupied with chasing around the little white ball!”

Alenier rejoined:
“Nice, Teri, that connection about the cooking-re-cognition to these balls.

“Now that makes me think that Stein is making fun of men who are chasing their balls! Hehe! Also men protect their anatomical balls with a cup, no?”
In a more serious mood, Alenier said,
“Something that occurred to me is that ‘Milk.’ is one of two and the first category in the FOOD table of contents

“I think this makes the tie to conception—baby, mother's milk, Stein's book babies—all that much stronger.”

Steiny thinks given all the o’s and the holes, maybe we should be asking how much can the reader swallow?

Steiny will end by adding notes (collected from Wikipedia) on golf and the Settlement Movement.

1900—Golf is played at the Paris Olympic Games. Twenty-two participants took part (12 men and 10 women) from four countries who competed in 36-hole individual stroke play events for men and women. The women’s Olympic champion was Margaret Abbot (USA) and Charles Sands (USA) was the men’s champion.1901 The rubber cored Haskell ball is introduced. It changed the way the game was played. The Haskell ball travelled farther than the old gutta-percha ball and cost considerably less because it could be mass produced. The game’s popularity surged in response.

1904—Golf is played for the second time in the Olympic Games in St Louis. Only men’s competitions were staged. (A team event of 36 holes stroke play won by the United States of America’s team and an individual event was won by George Lyon from Canada).

The settlement movement was a reformist social movement, beginning in the 1880s and peaking around the 1920s in England and the US, with a goal of getting the rich and poor in society to live more closely together in an interdependent community. Its main object was the establishment of "settlement houses" in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of, their low-income neighbors. The "settlement houses" provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare to improve the lives of the poor in these area

The most famous settlement house in the United States is Chicago's Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 after Addams visited Toynbee Hall within the previous two years. Hull House, though, was not a religious based organization. It focused on providing education and recreational facilities for European immigrant women and children.[2] Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, founded in 1894, Friendly Inn Settlement House, founded in 1874, Henry Street Settlement, founded in 1893, Hiram House, founded in 1896, and University Settlement House, founded in 1886 and the oldest in the United States, were, like Hull House, important sites for social reform. United Neighborhood Houses of New York is the federation of 38 settlement houses in New York City.[5] These and other settlement houses inspired the establishment of settlement schools to serve isolated rural communities in Appalachia.[c By 1913, there were 413 settlements in 32 states.[6]

In 1910, Louise Marshall founded The Cabbage Patch Settlement House with the help of her community, church, and family. Named for the Louisville neighborhood where it was originally established, The Cabbage Patch was formed in the spirit of Christian love as a safe haven for children in the neighborhood to play, grow, and learn. The Cabbage Patch quickly grew, gaining continued support from the Louisville community.

The Buttons Collective discussed Hull House in “It Was Black, Black Took.”

Participants: Karren Alenier, Mary Armour, Teri Rife