by Rajiv Mohabir
author of Anitman (Restless Books, 2021) and Cutlish (Four Way Books, 2021)
When I send my work out, I don’t ever think of it as “submission” though I do like the act of queer submitting. When I send out my poems to journals, cold or invited, I think of it (to take a page out of Suheir Hammad’s words) as sending for consideration. It’s a matter of power and dignity: your own power and dignity as an artist. Most people today will say that to send work out for consideration you need a “thick skin” not taking into account the abusiveness of that statement. Working as a writer and as an editor, I will tell you that there is not enough space to print and publish everything that I find to me moving, and that ever rejection that I’ve given feels painful because I know that the person who opens the email—on the other side of my communiqués—will not be thrilled with such news.
But when it comes to my own work being rejected, I sometimes get defensive. Clearly that editor did not see what I was doing. It’s their fault. There’s an expression I learned in Hindi that says, If they don’t know how to dance they will blame the courtyard for being uneven and maybe that’s who I am as a poet too. But I can get over this if I changed my frame of mind to think of the overworked editor that they have considered the work and it’s a pass this time. Here I give myself more dignity than the ignorant dancer I was blaming myself for being. It’s not my work that is bad—it just not be a great fit at this moment. Maybe I could deepen my poem or dive into its craft a little more. Or maybe it’s just the wrong place for this particular piece. This is more about giving myself agency and dignity than it is about the other people involved. Yes, editors can be transphobic, racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic—this is a possibility because the world we live in is all of those things. But don’t be your own bully. You deserve better treatment from yourself until you can become an editor and make the more just world that we are all thirsty for.
My best advice to you is to send for consideration with abandon. This is what I do. Send your best work. When, after consideration, the editor passes on it, take heart, and edit it if you’d like and send the same poems and writings out again to a different press or journal. Give the editor grace and give yourself an even larger helping. Believe in your work even though that feels risky to do so or to admit that you do.