Why Do We Reject Poems?

How can you make it out of here alive?

How can you make it out of here alive?

Yesterday, fellow Poetry Editor, Michael Mlekoday over at The Indiana Review posted on a topic close to our poetry editing hearts…five marks of the often rejected poem. I asked Asst. Poetry Editor, Christine Adams, here at The Greensboro Review to take a minute to weigh in on the subject. After she joked, “What the heck do I know?” She went on to describe her thoughts on “attempting to fray the edges of why I reject a poem.”

Christine Adams:

Michael Mlekoday’s list should be fairly familiar to most poets, begin strong, choose your images carefully, make sure that there is a logic to the way that your poem accumulates momentum, elevate your language beyond the ordinary, and finally, make sure you take the tops of our heads off, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson. But, I’m thankful for people like Michael Mlekoday, who actually take the time to try to unravel the reasons why a poem will end up in the rejection pile.

I’d also like to add that most poems that editors receive are not terrible, in fact they’re pretty okay for the most part. As I look around the office I see that most poems end up in the rejection pile because they were average. Because in a day spent reading poem after poem, most begin to run together. Remember that your poem needs to be the one that snaps us out of it. For instance, while I do agree that stock language is boring, as Michael says, sometimes when it comes out of the mouth of someone other than the speaker of the poem an interesting tension can arise that will make me turn to my fellow poetry editor and say, “We got a good one.”