The Process of Withdrawing Poems

Over the past year or so, I’ve had the good fortune of placing several poems in several different publications, which has left me in the position of withdrawing said poems from journals. I have engaged in simultaneous submissions ever since I started sending out work several years ago. With the advent of software like submittable, this process is far more streamlined and efficient than it used to be, and for the most part I’m able to sit down for half hour or so and notify all the necessary journals of my wish to withdraw a poem.


I’ve noticed over the past six months to a year that it is not always as easy to withdraw a poem as it should be, so what follows is a genuine plea to all small literary journals, because I love you and want to support you all day everyday, please be as clear in your guidelines to withdraw as you are in your guidelines to submit. What follows is a short list of easy improvements that could make the process of withdrawing a poem(s) easy as pie:

1. Allow notes in Submittable. I like submittable. I use it all the time and the longer I submit work, the more I notice journals switching over to their software. However, if as a journal or press you allow submissions through Submittable, then take the next step and allow notes so that if a poet submits five poems and only wants to withdraw one, they can just add a note to their submission file.

2. Clear contact information. If a journal does not use the note feature in submittable, then the next step I take as poet is to check out their website to see who I need to email regarding my submission. If you have a paragraph in your submission guidelines that outlines the process an author should take to withdraw a piece, then you should have a link to the email/contact in that paragraph. It is frustrating to read a sentence that states “Simultaneous submissions are encouraged but let us know immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere,” and then have to scour the website for five minutes trying to find that person to contact.

3. Please consider allowing us to withdraw one poem/story instead of the entire packet. I understand from an administrative point of view, it might just be easier to withdraw and entire packet, take out the accepted poem, and then upload the updated packet (although as I type that out, I’m not convinced) but I’ll be honest, the only desire this inspires in me is to just withdraw the entire packet and be done with it.

To be clear, I love literary journals. I appreciate all the hard work that goes in to reading submissions and designing a journal (print and/or online). I want to keep sending my work to as many places as possible, but in the event that someone snags it first, the easier it is to notify other journals, the better.

Poems & A Cup of Coffee

First,a quick update from my last post on Wednesday. My student decided to drop the class she was currently enrolled in and enroll in my 8 week online course. I am pleased about her decision for two reasons: 1). She made it 2). It was a positive choice. Hopefully, this will give her more flexibility and allow her to successfully complete the course. 

This afternoon I spent several hours at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company. If you live in Indy and have not visited this gem of a coffee shop located on Virginia Ave, you’re missing out. 
The front window @ Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company
Lunch. Noms.

Bus shelter on Virginia Ave. 

Rejection Letters: Taking Notes on a Poem

When I was deeply immersed in my first graduate program working on my MA in creative writing, I became aware of the concept of “good” rejection letters and “bad” rejection letters. These letters (now mostly emails) were associated with the literary journals we were sending our poems out to at the time. “Good” rejection letters contained notes from the editor or readers. These notes could be just a few words of encouragement or a request to “try us again,” but the most coveted of notes contained actual comments about the poem or poems you’d sent in. Admittedly, I’ve had more of the first type of “good” rejection letter, but in the past year or two I’ve received a few notes about my actual poems. Of course this puts me in the somewhat awkward position of trying to decide whether I’m going to apply these notes or not. Case in point, I received some notes on a poem last winter that basically stated that the tone of the poem seem muddled. This particular poem had been through an extensive revision process both in and out of workshop, and I wasn’t really sure there was much more I could do to make the tone clear. I thought about it for a few months and then decided to leave it be. This poem has recently been accepted for publication.

I feel that this example of the good/bad rejection letter really just opens the conversation up to the question of when to accept to critique and when to trust your gut. I know this is a constant point of conversation in my creative writing classes, especially because many of my students are brand new to the concept of workshop. I always tell them to take what is useful and constructive and leave the rest. The worst thing that ever comes from a suggestion is that you try something that doesn’t work. At least you know you tried, and in trying, you learned something.

In other news, I learned my poem, “Vigil,” will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Grey Sparrow Journal. All good things.

A Room of One’s Own

A long winter it was here in Indiana. A very long winter but now it is May. My peonies are blooming and I am on break until June 5th. The spring semester ended last Tuesday, and I spent the following days decompressing and organizing. Today, I took an hour and cleaned off my desk and made my workspace workable (it looked liked a paper factory threw up in here before) and then I decided I wanted to blog. And read. And write.

I wanted to.

As is evidenced by my blog, a hefty stack of New Yorkers, a long que on my Kindle Fire and my empty writing journals, I have not wanted to do any of these things since about February. For shame, but there’s not point in dwelling on the past.


After I spent some time cleaning up my little office area, I went outside, cut some peonies, returned to my office and read the first two chapters of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been awhile and I picked up a used copy at a yard sale last year, so I figured I’d dive right in. I like Woolf. I like her wit and her honesty. Brutal honesty. I like how she remarks, after being snubbed by two different men while visiting Oxbridge:

It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said. or something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten. 

I also love her beautifully descriptive images:

It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in windowpanes like the beat of an excitable heart. 

But most of all I admire her for passages like this:

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. 

So here’s to a summer of reading, gardens, yoga, fresh food and words.

My own little room. 

Elephant Funeral

The other day I was buzzing around on the internet, admittedly when I should have been working, when I came across this link. All of the pictures were interesting but this photograph was the one that resonated with me the most:

Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed via Anupam Nath / AP

The caption under the photograph reads: A villager offers flowers to a female adult elephant lying dead in a paddy field in Panbari village, India. The elephant was hit by a train and killed while crossing railway tracks with a herd of wild Asiatic elephants.

I thought about the image for a few days. It was beautiful and sad and so on Thursday, while my class was taking their World Lit final, I drafted a poem.*

*This poem is currently out for submission. 

Why Are Poems About Winter So Grim?

I like to peruse the websites of The Academy of American Poets & The Poetry Foundation on a semi-regular basis. A lot of the times I just click on random links and read whatever pops up.  Sometimes these are familiar poems but often I stumble upon something new.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impending winter season. Almost all of the leaves are off the trees, Thanksgiving has come and gone and the squirrels are burying their bounty in my backyard, so when I looked at the above mentioned websites this morning, I clicked on poems about winter. After reading several older and contemporary poems, I came to an important realization: winter poems are depressing. Now I know that symbolically speaking at its best winter is associated with sleep/hibernation and at its worst it is about death/decay. Pair these themes with Season Affective Disorder (SAD) and well, I can see why the poets have trouble working up any enthusiasm. I thought if maybe I narrowed my search to “Christmas” or “holiday,” things might perk up. Realization #2, poet’s have a harder time with Christmas than they do with winter in general. The reasons for this seem obvious and understandable, to me at least. Christmas is the land of cliche and materialism. In a sea of Hallmark cards, what self respecting “poet” is going to try and pen a few verses about the joy of evergreen trees or hanging Christmas lights or basting a turkey? Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. But write a poem about it? No way in hell.

Anyway, I did discover a few winter poems I really liked:

Winter Twilight 

On a clear winter's evening
The crescent moon

And the round squirrels' nest
In the bare oak

Are equal planets.
~Anne Porter 

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

~William Carlos Williams

Toward the Winter Solstice

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.
~Timothy Steele 

Snowflakes (1st stanza)

Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow. 
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow