Recently (well, last night) I talked about low acceptance numbers. I am sitting at an approximate 2.5% acceptance rate for the past 18 months. However, that's not the number which really bothers me. I have gone years without a publication, and in the past two years I have seen a full length book and chapbook come out from Foothills Press. I am, as far as books go, a very good run of it.
No. What bothers me is the fact I have not had a single poem from the new manuscript published. Not one. Not a single poems has appeared from the 32 poems I have written for the manuscript, and that is not good at all---under any conditions. Why? My usual pattern is to have great success with the individual poems I write but struggle with manuscript acceptances. Take for example, Sailing This Nameless Ship, my latest complete manuscript to sit in dry dock, so to speak. 37% of the poems in that manuscript were snatched up in a relatively short time. My acceptance numbers then were phenomenal. Where has the manuscript gone? To literally dozens of presses, and far more contests than I care to admit paying for. What has been the result? Nothing. No hyperbole needed. It has fallen on its face. I started sending out the manuscript in it's mature form more than two ears ago, and as each day passes, my biggest fear for it becomes one day stronger.
Now take my latest effort, a book of poems written about the history of Springville. Not an easy sell, but I pulled it off with Town for the Trees---twice. The big problem is it was difficult as hell to get that book accepted for publication, and that's with nearly every poem in that book having been published prior to being submitted for consideration as a whole. Here, I have been submitting these poems for more than a year as they get written and the one acceptance I received last year, turned into a rejection when the journal made the decision to focus solely on short fiction. No "we will still publish your work" or even more than a "sorry for forgetting you for eight months." My biggest fear is that I will get to the end of this manuscript, which is still 30 poems away from being finished, and have nowhere to shop it around because nobody will have seen any of the poems inside of it. They won't want it, either, because this time, nobody has wanted any of the individual poems within. It will represent another two years of my life, working on very specific manuscript, coming to nothing.
What terrifies me is I think I am getting better as a poet. If that is true, my getting better, then what is wrong with my writing? Maybe I need to start drinking.