Thursday, December 10, 2009


I just heard back via email that a small sheaf of poems I'd submitted to a journal, wherein I've been published before, were rejected. Politely if categorically. It's interesting to have had these poems rejected, by a general I'd been published in before. But I realize, going over what I submitted, that the current editor of that journal is openly biased towards formalist poetry, which is not remotely what I do. So it was probably a mismatch from the start. Nonetheless, it's interesting to be rejected in part because I hadn't been bothering to submit any poems anywhere for well over a year, and what's come back has either been rejection or the silences of limbo, of never hearing back either way.

I just heard that I need a different kind of medication to deal with aspects of my chronic illness that I haven't been able to get under control via sheer force of will. First feelings were that I had somehow failed, that I am somehow a failure for not being superhuman, for not being able to get out from under this crushing burden by sheer force of will. It's a rejection of my ability to take care of myself. Well, feelings aren't rational things: even though I know none of that is really true, or even relevant, that was the first rush of feelings.

I just heard that once again my thoughts and ideas were rejected, loudly, by someone so self-absorbed that he's convinced the communication difficulties between us are because I haven't taken the time to properly understand him, rather than the closer truth that he's bad at communicating and has so many chips on his shoulder about being an academic brat with a high IQ that my mere writing style pushes all his buttons. It's ironically amusing to be rejected by someone who foams at the mouth if you dare to fairly cite your sources, as an attempt to be courteous to other authors, not as an attempt to be more academic-than-though. It's doubly ironic when smart intellectuals adopt a pose of being anti-intellectual, usually for reasons of personal biography and a lack of self-esteem. Who are they kidding? Themselves, mostly. It's amazing the dumb things that smart people can do; it just goes to prove that no-one is free of emotional blockages, and no-one is immune to self-deception.

I just heard that sound of a door opening and closing, in the back of the mind, as I refuse as many times as necessary to give in to my own personal demons. I reject them. They keep coming back, of course. You slay the inner predator as many times as you must, over and over and over again, as long as it takes. I reject the need to tell my story to everyone individually; telling it once is enough, and if telling it collectively offends someone, too bad, because telling it once is what I can handle, whereas telling it over and over and over again would kill me.

I just heard a wiser man than I say how humility lies at the core of his public success: You are who you are, at all times and in all places. This humble rejection of pride and ego-inflation is quiet force for good. It serves to remind me that being rejected by editors, the ignorant, the superficial, and those who would diminish others to build themselves up, is no shame. There is no shame in being rejected by those unable to see what's really there, rather than what they think is there. The willfully ignorant are not to be excused for their willful ignorance, although it's hard not to feel pity.

I just heard myself say that self-pity is not something I want. Tempting and habit-forming as it is. You can be your own worst enemy. I reject myself for whining about it, then I reject the rejection because about some things you've earned the right to complain. What you learn from those who reject your whining is that not every one of your friends is capable of supporting ,or even accepting, you when you're down. Sometimes even the best advice is useless, or poorly timed. Right words, wrong moment. There can be wisdom in rejecting badly-timed advice, which is a kind of self-knowledge or what you are able to absorb at any given moment. Sometimes you have to reject what seems rational and logical because you know that even logic can be used as a cudgel as well as a scalpel.

I just heard the bitter ice cracking in the street outside, the glare and slickness of the coldest night so far. It's easy to feel rejected when alone on a winter night like this. All too easy—and so untrustworthy. I trust that which I already know to be trustworthy, and let go of the rest. It's all right to feel rejected, when rejections happen—as long as you don't let it dictate what you do next, as long as you keep going forward, and let go of the rest.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I get what you're saying about the pills. At the moment I'm weaning myself off my drugs for the second time. Last time when I got down to 75mg from 300 all the old symptoms came back with a vengeance and I'm understandably nervous this time round too. Currently I'm down to 150mg with no horrendous results. You feeling of failure is natural. I feel it too. I feel I should be able to get to grips with myself and am just waiting on someone accusing me of malingering of somehow milking my condition. I don't really know what more I can do except live a balanced life and wait. The thing is I'm not a balanced person. Just give me a day with a clear head and I'll sit in front of this damn computer for sixteen hours. They're rare. Six is about the best I can hope for. I do need to exercise more and I've promised my psychotherapist to do just that but I don' have much stamina and I am dragging my heels.

I've not had too many rejections of late but it's getting close on a year since I sent out anything en masse. I'll try and sort that out over Xmas. I've decided not to blog for the whole fortnight since I imagine most people will be too busy to read long posts like mine and there's no point wasting them. I'm going to try and get back into my novel. I printed out a copy and read what I'd written so far when Carrie was in America. It reads okay and is worth hanging onto. I just need to get an 'in' and I'll be fine. I have no problem writing – I average 1000 words every day – I simply need to be able to direct that energy. I had hoped that blog-writing would kick-start the novel writing but I've only been writing poetry really for the last three years, decent poetry but still just poetry.

You really don't need me to put your recent rejection into perspective. For Christ's sake you just had a musical composition performed in public – do you know how jealous I am of that?

9:50 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, i think you're right on most counts. I mostly wrote this as a half-humorous way to cheer myself up from a funk I'd fallen into. It was an artistic way of making myself feel better. And it worked.

I was also thinking of that excellent essay you wrote some months ago on this same topic, Writers and Rejection. A delayed bit of influence, perhaps.

In many ways, I don't care at all about the poems being rejected. That matters so much less to me than it used to. And as I wrote recently, over the past year or so I've gradually been moving away from poetry towards music—the new piece being premiered is the result of that, of course—and of course photography is still going well for me. So it's just that it's so ironic.

I've been reading in Edward Weston's Daybooks again, and it's a good reminder to see how the great photographer, at his most creative times, was still beset by doubts, the scramble to pay bills, and continuous rejection and misunderstandings. It keeps things in perspective, to remember that even Weston and Adams and the rest were rejected so often. Not that I'm comparing myself to them, nonetheless I get some comfort in my own struggles by seeing these artists I greatly admire had to struggle as well.

Although I can honestly say that the editor of that aforementioned journal really IS becoming more and more formalist, and less open to other styles. It's an interesting evolution, and not necessarily a good one for the journal. And the gods know my own recent "style" in poems for the past couple of years is baffling, even to me. I really don't know what I'm doing anymore, with words. I think that that's a good thing, actually—it's a between-state where the old life is gone and the new roads aren't quite yet revealed.

I have enough cognitive hits from the illness itself, the exhaustion that's part of it making my head foggy some days that I forget things I never used to overlook, that I do worry about new pills making that worse instead of better. I'm to try this new ned for a month, though, then decide what to do. I mostly hope for some relief, but a clear head would be part of that relief.

11:23 AM  

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