Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Perils of Publishing Without a Good Editor

My mind works in tangents. The connections are always clear to me, but I'm often reminded that they can be obscure or misleading to others with less privileged access to my frequencies.

It was pointed out to me that in this post it seemed as though I was suggesting there was something louche about the editor, who knew me, asking me for a poem and publishing it. I didn't mean to suggest that at all, and have revised the original post to, I hope, better reflect my meaning. What I meant is that the person sending out their poems quasi-anonymously isn't simply competing against other people sending out their work quasi-anonymously. I think the editor who goes out and actively requests work and invites submissions from poets whose work they like is doing a good job. If I were a poetry editor, that's what I would be doing and yes, a lot of the work I'd publish would probably be written by people I know pretty well. Had I submitted the poem to this particular editor blindly, I do believe she would have published it. But I might as easily have sent it to six different editors and received six rejections. It's a bloody crapshoot and not, in my mind, worth the effort.

So my points are two:

1) You're more likely to get published if you make yourself known somehow. Five of my last six poetry publications in Canadian magazines have been aided by connections to editors (the sixth was a publication of Emile Nelligan poems, translated by me, for a special issue on translation) who have either asked for specific poems or requested that I submit work. You can be a purist and avoid all that--and more power to ya--but it's not a practical way to get published, if that's your goal. Again, I don't question the judgment or ethics of the editors who did this, as I'd be doing the exact same thing in their place: looking for work I think is good to publish in my magazine.

2) Editorial biases are not inherently bad things. When I see a lot of local writers in a magazine, I don't think of that as an editorial bias, but as a sociological bias. This isn't so much corrupt as just a smidge too-human.

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