Marketing poetry isn’t simple math. It’s a word problem. You show your work, and the teacher in you is either satisfied or not.
Lately I have yearned for more, meaning the math has shifted such that I am studying that old Indian concept of zero. That’s right. No longer satisfied with placing poems in this journal or that, I’ve taken to swinging for the fences: Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic… any well-known and lofty (by poetry journal standards) outfit that pays.
Pointing to the wall as you step to the plate (á la Babe Ruth) means two things: long waits and short rejection notes. The major leagues mean major competition. Spots are precious few, and many are taken by insiders and “members of the club.”
Still, periodically, over-the-transom types sneak through, cut lines, find a way. It’s that blind lottery ticket mentality: “It could happen to me!”
But, wait. Isn’t lack of publication leading to lack of readership? What’s a poem without a reader (ancient Buddhist koan)?
Like a diet (erm… “lifestyle change”), you actually get used to it after a while. The silence becomes an affirmation of sorts. Your resolution is moving along as planned. You’re hearing from major markets every 8 to 12 months, as if time is not of the essence, as if you will live long enough to see this submission of five poems through “school” (read: 5-10 markets).
It’s like meditation: the lack of publication in this journal in Obscura, Illinois, or that journal in Arcana, Indiana, is OK. The “om” of “zero” feels good. I just focus on my breathing and write. And revise. And write. And revise. And write….