I just took a quick little look at my poetry bookshelf which sits behind my teacher desk. I would say that I have an office, but besides being a lie, I want to communicate the image of the destitute and beleaguered high school teacher. What did I see? Well, aside from a meager collection of poetry (barely three full shelves) I saw the many anthologies to which I am addicted. I say addicted because as a teacher with a budget, I often buy anthologies because I get more poetry for my money---something most other poets know nothing about, or so I have heard.
Still, that isn’t what struck me most when I saw all of these anthologies. What I really felt was the absence of any of my poems within those anthologies. Now I know I will never be included in many of the anthologies I own. That is the lot of most poets---even ones greater than me. What I am upset about are the many anthologies of specialized and so-called niche subjects for which I have submitted and been rejected from. I am slowly coming around to the fact I will never have that particular credit inside any of my biographies within the various journals who do accept my work.
Now, I know some poets who would tell me I am simply being vain for even thinking about being included in any anthology, or that I am in poetry for all the wrong reasons for even broaching this subject. Well, first, this post is not to be taken seriously--- I am writing this post in jest, so simmer down, people; and second, I am just being a little snarky in response to the many rejections I have had at the hands of editors who, in my opinion, overstate their willingness to include the best poems in said anthologies.
Yes. I said it. Some editors are not looking for the best poems to anthologize. Some editors are looking for the best “names” to include in an anthology in the hopes they can put in their cv one day an editing credit for such and such anthology with “all the biggies.” Right this moment I am looking at an anthology to which I submitted and was of course rejected from, which bears no resemblance of an effort of quality of work. Oh, all the names are there---all the names which should count. But you know what? I can smell a turd like everyone else can, and that particular anthology is a turd. Maybe I am supposed to be happy I was rejected because my name wasn’t big enough.
I suppose it’s my own fault. I mean, when I saw the announcement (and you rarely ever hear of these announcements until it’s too late to submit because poets guard them like a nun guards her virginity) I assumed anyone could submit and have a reasonable chance of being taken seriously. I was wrong. The announcement should have read: “Send in your poems if you are somebody we’ve heard of.” I went ahead and bought the anthology and now I own a collection of mostly second rate poems (with a few good poems) by “name” poets. Why should I care? Because I buy anthologies to get a good selection of poetry for the money I can spend, and when I know what I sent in was better than what was published I lose a little more faith in the editorial process.
What now? Well, I own a few contemporary anthologies which will never be dog-eared, will never be pulled off my shelf and shared with an eager student, will never remind me of why I love poetry.
Now I will always submit to anthologies for which I believe my work to be appropriate, and I will always accept the fact I will be rejected time and time again. It’s what poets know to be true. I will keep trying to impress upon editors with my take on subject specific writing, and no, I won’t be doing it solely for the ability to note in my bio I have been anthologized. I will submit time and time again because I want to join in the chorus of voices, singing in a choir of commonality with an uncommon voice among many.