Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thoughts on Rejection and What’s Fashionable in Poetry

Poem rejection is in the air judging from the blogs I read. I’ve been thinking about what if you happen to write poems that are full of craft, heart, and intellect but are not currently fashionable in the publishing world. Sometimes I wonder if this applies to my poems, or at least some of them. I don’t want to compromise my artistic integrity just for the sake of getting published. I’ll just keep doing my thing and focus on writing better poems. I’ll also keep sending my work out when I think it is ready.

Related to the paragraph above, I found this interesting in my page-a-day calendar:

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)

Edna St. Vincent Millay epitomized the romanticism of Greenwich Village in the early twentieth century and the universality of love’s heartbreak, and has become one of the world’s most popular romantic poets. Perhaps unfortunately for Millay, her first poem, “Renascence,” published in 1917, written when she was 20 years old, may have been her best. During her lifetime she rarely received the critical acclaim she thought she deserved, although in 1923 she received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Poet Louise Bogan remarked that Millay possessed “a strange mixture of maturity and unresolved youth,” together with “childish fears of death and …charming rebellions against facts.” Perhaps it was these characteristics that brought a poignant sense of nonfulfillment to Millay’s last years, time-saddened after the glories of Greenwich Village and the 1920s.

How would you like to have a critic say that your first published poem may have been your best? Note that Millay went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Even if you do enjoy critical acclaim during your lifetime, there are once famous poets that few people read today. I’m thinking of Edward Arlington Robinson right now. You rarely see his name mentioned in contemporary essays about poetry.


At 4:50 PM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

Hell, if I knew what kind of poems were in vogue, or how to write them, I would at least make the attempt. As it is, I know that the poetry I write looks great until about three days after I send it off in half a dozen submissions. Then everything changes. I hate my poems from that point on, and I feel only the more justified every time they get rejected.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

Personally, I'd like my name and "first published poem" to appear in the same sentence.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Edna is a genius to me. I've read a number of her sonnets and some have dazzled me more than others, but many, many of them have really blown me away.

I'm struck by the dismissive tone of this critic's evaluation. I think he/she really underestimate's Edna's ability and influence.


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