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December 4, 2010 / johnoliversimon

Sending Out Poems: a lament

I’m on a losing streak sending out poems and translations.

So far this year 2010 I’ve sent out ten batches totalling 53 poems and translations to Rattle, New Madrid, Parthenon West, Agni, Massachusetts Review, Nimrod. Stillcrazy, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cider Press Review and 2River View. Only one batch got anything accepted — thank you Chad Sweeney and David Holler at Parthenon West for taking two of my translations of Uruguayan poet, long resident in Mexico, Eduardo Milán! — and eight rejected, and I’m still waiting on Hayden’s Ferry. 1-8. That’s my worst won-lost record in a long time. Barry Zito territory.

Actually, TwoLines Online, from the Center for the Art of Translation where I work, accepted two Milán in 2009 and just published them this year, so don’t cry for me, Cono Sur. I’ve got some theories as to why I’m doing so badly this year — lost a foot off my fastball — release point — afraid to brush back the hitters — but I’ll get to them down the page.

Obviously, I’m keeping track of wins and losses. In fact, I’ve got a log and a spreadsheet dating my submissions back to 1979.

Before that I would send out a batch of poems — as like as not to Poetry (Chicago) or The New Yorker good luck — and if — when — they weren’t accepted I would cower in my closet for six months before sending out another batch. Once I started keeping track, and I began to realize that about half the time something got accepted (my lifetime percentage is .564), then a rejection would prompt the positive thought that great, tomorrow I’ll get an acceptance! And I would keep sending out.

My first acceptance, other than high school (Putney Magazine) and college (Swarthmore Roc) literary mag was from a small magazine called Approach, edited in Pennsylvania, and it came in February 1965, after twelve or fifteen rejections in a row. My dear then first wife wife Pam — all hail First Wife Pam Hazel! — opened the envelope, and was so thrilled she made me a nice lamb chop dinner which was bitter cold by the time I got home from playing touch football with the guys well into dusk. We had our usual fight — not having the sense yet that God gave a goose, we didn’t know how to fight constructively — leaving damage edging toward final breakup. If Pam and I hadn’t broken up we’d be married now going on 46 years. Another road not leading to daughter and granddaughter, no regrets.

My first adultly published poem was called “Home As Found,” and the first line was I went all summer in Pathfinder’s country. An eleven-syllable line. I’m still writing them. Another post I’ll return to their poetics.

Since 1979, I’ve sent out 519 batches totalling 3,180 poems. Of these, 291 batches had something accepted, 227 were all rejected. I’ve had a total of 238 original poems published in English, 53 poems translated into Spanish and 449 translations from Spanish, 740 publications in all. Which with three quarters will get me, as a senior, a ride on the Muni.

My best stretch was 2001-04, inclusive, when I went 40-12. Having translations available certainly increased my acceptance rate. A magazine might or might not want to feature the effusions of a Berkeley poet pouring words out of his beard, but a Colombian, a Chilean, increases the diversity factor. As Spanish has gotten relatively more common, the journals are holding out for Zapotec and Uighur, and who can blame them.

Let alone get a book of my translations published. I’ve had three, a limited letterpress Gonzalo Rojas (Chile, 1917 – ) the youngest poet in Latin America, from Red Dragonfly Press, a large selected Rojas from Green Integer which did not make anyone’s list, and a beautiful Jorge Fernández Granados (México, 1961 – ) chapbook from Tameme. Or a book of my own poems. None since 2002 (Caminante). I’m writing better than ever but an old man is but a tattered coat.

But who’s counting?

This material is for the waaaugh board but I submit it for historical interest. Since I drafted it and buried it six weeks ago I have sent out four batches of a total of 25 translations from Uruguayán / Mexican magician Eduardo Milán.

I’ll profile Milán soon. Meanwhile, one of his poems:


En atención a la llamada

distinguir la llama que es de la llamada que no es

es desdoblamiento

replegado en su ausencia.


My version:


To the white courtesy phone


To the white courtesy phone

to tell the call that is from the call that isn’t

that which unfolds and

accordions on itself in absence.



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