June is my big rejection month. I can usually count on a little rejection all the time but by the end of the semester editors and judges seem to want to wrap things up. There’s a boat to catch, or a Yankees home stand, not to mention all the summery commitments.
“Bookstock, in Vermont,” I can hear poet and judge Kim Addonizio grieving into her glass. “So that’s my July.”
Pass the whiskey. Electronic mail lets me tear into those rejection envelopes while sitting inside the comfort of my own petty horror. One friend once told me she dealt with rejection by immediately sending her rejected poems to five new places. I was never that brave, and I never knew that many magazines.
A few months ago, my stepdaughter and her boyfriend applied to a theater program. It was like a residency thing. Last month, he called her to say he got in. “Thanks for serving up my rejection,” she said. “If they contacted you already and not me then I know what I’m not doing this summer.”
They broke up, which was unfortunate, since she wasn’t able to call and tell him she got her own fellowship to Sewanee. Instead, she called me. “That’s great news,” I said. “I guess they didn’t take me. We could have gone together.” “Oh Bear,” she said. “I’m sure that white male confessional essay is really competitive.”
I think of Face Book as my desk manager. But one of the bothersome things about social media is that so many of my friends post their brags. It only reinforces my sense of failure. I mean, failure isn’t so bad. Sort of makes me feel like Icarus. But how many times can one person drown?
My cousin Eduardo C. Corral announced last week that he intended to post all of his failures and rejections. Although I’m not surprised by the presses who love him I was shocked by the ones who didn’t. This June, every Friday will be “Failure Friday.” I plan on posting all of my rejections accumulated for the week.
If I’d done this last month you would have learned that I wasn’t going to the Millay Colony, or the Vermont Studio Center, or Bread Loaf, or Sewanee. You would have discovered my disappointments at Agni, Iron Horse Review, Dogwood, Indiana Review, Boiler, and countless other magazines. There was even one time I rejected myself, pulling a piece that had been accepted for publication.
It wasn’t all bad. The high water mark came when I received my contributor copies of Consequence Magazine. My poem “The Brig” was one of only a handful to be included which didn’t conform to the Persian theme. Another contributor was poet Tom Sleigh who ironically had rejected “The Brig” in at least three contests. “How sexy am I now?” I wanted to ask him, in my best Scarlett Johansson.
“What poem did you get published?” Julia asked, when I showed my wife the glossy copies. “The Brig,” I said. “You know, the one about the imaginary prison.”
“Oh that poem,” she said. “Actually, I never liked it all that much.”