Rejection to Acceptance: 57 Poems That Finally Made It
by Patricia Williams
57 Poems ~ 145 pages
Publisher: Kelsay Books
To Order: Kelsay Books & Amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
The would-be poet, “Oh, how awful I feel. My 5th submission to a journal has been rejected!” Patricia Williams, “GET OVER IT!”
What a way to begin a review. But this is exactly the right way to begin a review about reality for poets. In Rejection to Acceptance: 57 Poems That Finally Made It, poet Patricia Williams does not coddle her audience. She does not allow poets to “cry in their soup.” Rejection in poetry is life. It is the way things are. Conversely, success in poetry is life as well. This poet is about winning. She is determined. She is smart; and most importantly, she has talent. With that said, Williams will be the first to aver that she is not “exceptionally” talented. Poetry, like other crafts, can be learned. What Williams has, in abundance, is a very thick skin. Over the course of about 10 years, rejections came in numbers that would paper her living room walls. Rejection to Acceptance is about one poet’s journey from failure to success … consistent success.
Topics of Special Interest
In this behind-the-scenes look at how publishing works, Williams presents snapshots in areas such as Inspiration, Submitting and Rewriting, handling Rejection, how publishing houses Weed Out work they don’t want, and much more. As an editor, I found these topics interesting and informative. The more prospective writers know about how the process works the easier it is to navigate its often-turbulent waters.
Among the most helpful aspects of the book is the author’s extended treatment of things publishers consider when evaluating a potential acceptance. Knowledge is power. Under-standing the inner-workings of a publishing house and/or how editors think, places writers “in-the-action.” Trepidation eases, confidence grows.
You won’t want to skip over Williams’ section on Defining Success. Mental and psycho-logical acuity is important in the long haul of writing and publishing … I spent extra time there.
The work is organized into five parts which, when taken in aggregate, showcase the poet’s wide range of subject interests as well as her unique writing style. These are: Part I, Going Places: Here, There & Everywhere; Part II, Of Things Social: Principles & Opinions; Part III, Nature: Trees, the Sky, some Fur & some Feathers; Part IV, Humor: Not only Light verse, but also Ironic, Satirical; and Part V, Home & Neighborhood: Coming & Going.
Means & Plans
Williams has tightly structured each entry according to her stated purpose: To demonstrate her path from rejection to acceptance. Included in these richly detailed commentaries:
The once-rejected poem printed out in full
Number of rejections
Path/steps in the journey toward acceptance
Interactions with her poetry coach (another good idea)
Comments/critiques of appreciation once in publication.
Means and Plans Applied
Below is one example. Note how Williams weaves journey and commentary into a coherent whole.
Sketches Along the Yangtze
Nothing but the moon attends ten thousand peaks along
the river. Forlorn wanderers in the gorges weep for home
when the gibbon’s cry echoes. Only in this place can a traveler
hear sound so mournful.
The gorges run deep and long, sunlight rarely penetrates
green-clad pinnacles shrouded in a curtain of rain.
Here, an Immortal loved a mortal king, invaded his dreams
as a cloud at dawn and rain at sunset. Clouds and rain have
since begotten a symphony of longing.
Ahead are the twelve peaks of Wu Gorge, a bleak and frothy,
dark place. The aura heavy, somber, desolate–waves churn,
roar, rush to the sky. Over the frontier pass, wind and clouds sink
to the waiting earth where million-year ancestries
embrace ancient terrain.
The mighty Yangtze crashes, carves its way to the sea.
A three-day trip on the Yangtze River in China inspired “Sketches Along the Yangtze,” written in 2013 when I first began to write poetry.
The melancholy cry of the gibbon heard in the Yangtze River gorges symbolizes the sadness of travelers far from home. The phrase “clouds and rain” is a traditional Chinese euphemistic expression believed to have originated in myths about Goddess Peak along the Yangtze River. It alludes to having sex. Sexual references were barred in China, so the Chinese worked around the restrictions by inventing indirect language to talk about it.
Six journals declined the poem. One editor commented, “we enjoyed Sketches Along the Yangtze. Please feel free to submit again.” A second editor wrote: “we enjoyed your poems, particularly ‘Sketches Along the Yangtze’, however, we are going to pass on inclusion. We very much look forward to reading more from you in the future.”
I eventually learned to do a better job of matching poem styles to publication venues. These editors were telling me that my work was good, just not suited to their current publication.
Lost Tower Publications in the UK accepted “Sketches” for their anthology, Journeys Along the Silk Road in 2015. It featured writing inspired by China’s ancient trade routes. “Sketches” is also published in my 2017 chapbook, The Port Side of Shadows (Finishing Line Press).
I found Rejection to Acceptance immediately enjoyable if read only for pleasure. Its practical helps and applications to one’s own writing become, icing-on-the-cake, as it were.