playing with rejection

by Bernard De Koven on January 14, 2013

Many, many years ago –  before inkjet and laser printers, before even laptops and correcting-Selectric typewriters – that many years ago – when I was convinced that I was going to be a professional poet (professional poet,  ah, the naive, uninformed ambitions of youth). I found myself the unwilling possessor of a growing collection of what professional poets of the time classified as “rejection slips.”

In a moment of pre-self-immolation, I found myself at my nearest wall with a roll of tape, decorously affixing my rejection collection into a visually pleasing display. I discovered what some describe as a “grim satisfaction” as my personal wailing wall assembled itself before me. In fact, I found myself sending my poetry to more and more prestigious publications, harboring a deeply hidden hope that one of my poems might actually find acceptance, whilst gathering some of the most prestigious rejection slips known to the unknown poets of the world.

This proved mildly amusing – mild enough to keep me from laughing hysterically, amusing enough to provide incentive to keep me submitting my poetry to the gatekeepers of the literary world.

By the time my wailing wall had reached its aesthetic apotheosis, I decided it might be time for me to pursue an alternate strategy.

I wrote my own rejection slip. A rejection slip rejection.

It read:

“the author regrets that he is unable to accept the enclosed rejection slip. this in no way reflects on the quality of the rejection, but rather on the author’s needs at the present time.”

Signed, in print, of course:

“the author.”

I took my manuscript to a local press, and had 500 printed, on vellumish cardstock, with an embossed frame. From then on, for next 30 or so rejections, I returned the rejection slips to the publisher, with my rejection slip attached – with high-quality paper clips, even.

I actually heard back from a couple publishers – with hand-written apologies, no less.

I still have 468 rejection slip rejections somewhere. I decided to go into teaching, instead.


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