Rejection Party

via The Age

Here are two poems by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, a poet who is new to me.

The first poem was recently featured in American Life in Poetry, and emailed to me by a friend who dreads the English Department holiday party awkwardness as much as I do.

The second is another from her collection Everything is Everything, and it is the best AWP poem I've seen, though I think it's probably the only AWP poem I've seen. (Although, this wrap-up of the 2010 AWP in Denver is so good it may as well be a poem.) Anyway, I found the poem to be pretty funny and I think you will, too, especially if you've ever worked an AWP Bookfair table.

Both are worth reading and sharing.

At the Office Holiday Party

I can now confirm that I am not just fatter
than everyone I work with, but I’m also fatter
than all their spouses. Even the heavily bearded
bear in accounting has a little otter-like boyfriend.

When my co-workers brightly introduce me
as “the funny one in the office,” their spouses
give them a look which translates to, Well, duh,
then they both wait for me to say something funny.

A gaggle of models comes shrieking into the bar
to further punctuate why I sometimes hate living
in this city. They glitter, a shiny gang of scissors.
I don’t know how to look like I’m not struggling.

Sometimes on the subway back to Queens,
I can tell who’s staying on past the Lexington stop
because I have bought their shoes before at Payless.
They are shoes that fool absolutely no one.

Everyone wore their special holiday party outfits.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the bar that I realized
my special holiday party outfit was exactly the same
as the outfits worn by the restaurant’s busboys.

While I’m standing in line for the bathroom,
another patron asks if I’m there to clean it.

via The Rumpus
At the Convention

Robbie keeps telling me
that when he goes up

to the booths of literary journals
that have rejected him,

he wants to happily tell them
Hey, you rejected me!

as if it might give him
cred, as if it says,

I’m your loser.

Don’t do that, I say
but later, I feel his itch,

the firing range of booths,
disposable monuments

of failure. My tongue’s
shiny trigger, the shiver

it sends through my ego’s
hard-earned buckshots.

The bored interns working
the booths, notice me staring.

They nervously meet my gaze
and then break it.

They couldn’t possibly know,
but I do:

my pilot light flickers,
but never goes out.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Everything is Everything


It was September, the beginning of the semester, when I started submitting Praise Nothing to contests and publishers' open-calls. And now that it's December, and I've finished grading final essays and poetry portfolios, and now that I've got some solid time to just concentrate on my poems, I'm starting to get antsy.

Like my peers/friends, I've learned from submitting poem batches to journals over the years how to wait, but this waiting game is different because there's so much riding on those three little emailed words, "We are delighted...," or on the "Unknown Caller" ID on the cellphone screen.

Or, at least, that's what I imagine and hope for.

Even still, I'm prepared for rejection, I think. Not that I expect rejection, just that rejection is a regular experience in this writing life, as you know.

I'm one of those people that never gets down at the sight of the thin envelope and paper slip in the mailbox. Maybe I'm a masochist, but when I send out batches of poems, I really do look forward to rejection. Part of this pleasure in what might seem to be a kind of psychological self-mutilation is that getting the mail is an everyday joy in my life, and, when there's something for me, my day is made! There's also a joy in being able to send out again the poems I believe in. Put 'em right back in the mail.

So, I'm anxious to find out how I'm going to react when I get my first manuscript rejection of this round. I'll keep you posted.

Speaking of rejection, Brian Simoneau tells a good story today on his blog about a recent day filled with rejection. Here's an excerpt, but be sure you click over because the ending of this entry is laugh-out-loud good.

Via Heartland Perhaps:
One thing I will say: last week, in one twenty-four hour stretch, I received five rejections. Now, like most writers out there, I've grown used to the rejection that comes along with sending out manuscripts. I recognize that it's part of publishing, that the process is more-or-less subjective, that it doesn't and shouldn't reflect my relative worth as a human being. I even make my lame little jokes—mostly self-deprecating—as I (over)analyze the scribbled-in-ink message (or lack thereof) on each lame little slip of paper. But five rejections in one day? That's rough.