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.