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Tuesday, 10 September 2019


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

CV of published material available on request. & @JoeCushnan

I assume many, most, all writers deal with rejections in their own way.  Sometimes, there is no response whatsoever from editors and that's okay. They must be inundated with submissions and unsolicited stuff. Most times, if a response comes, it's a form note to say thanks but no thanks. But, friends, once in the bluest of moons, an editor gives a shit and writes a rejection in a supportive, positive, encouraging, educating way. 

I want to share a rejection email with you now. I will not identify the journal.

I sent 10 haiku which I thought were pretty good, but what the hell do I know. Here's the email, edited to eliminate any identification. I love it. 

Dear Joe,

Many thanks for your submission. While there are interesting features in your haiku, unfortunately we don’t feel the poems are currently quite right for publication with us.

This isn’t necessarily reflective of the quality of the work, it’s just that the haiku don’t quite fit what we are looking to publish at the moment. Certainly you should compose your poems the way that feels right to you, but my feeling is that some of these could be effective haiku if they were stripped down from the 5-7-5 model to simpler forms of expression.

English syllables are not the direct equivalent of the Japanese sound units, which are much shorter, so composing 5-7-5 haiku in the English language very often makes the poems feel overwritten, can force you to add unnecessary content, and can create unnatural line breaks. My advice would be to consider moving away from the rigidity of the 5-7-5 model, allowing your poems to be more suggestive, focusing on a specific moment of perception or experience, and employing a more effective contrast between the fragment (1 line) and phrase (2 lines). 

An example of what I mean, to appropriate material in your submission, if I may, might be...

pain sharpens
to a peak

It is by no means perfect, but the expression is simpler/lighter, with a distinction between fragment and phrase that allows for deeper interpretation.

We would certainly welcome further submissions from you in the future, and we wish you all the best in seeking publication for these poems in other journals.

Isn't that brilliant? I don't feel like a failure or a chump. It makes me want to bounce back off the ropes and go again.

Thank you mystery editor of mystery journal, in a bizarre way, you made my day. 

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