The rejection of a poem by a poetry journal on grounds of merit, or rather lack of merit, or maybe unsuitability, or any of a host of other reasons, lack of space comes to mind, or not in line with the publication's ethos or style or poetry length or whatever you like is fair enough and expected. But to reject a poem on the grounds that it has not been submitted along with 3 or 4 other poems is no grounds at all. It is merely, as the saying goes, a bit of cherry picking. And this is wrong and unfair.
Why so? Because the single poem submitted is submitted under stringent conditions like the must not be previously published elsewhere or submitted elsewhere rules. Some journals go so far as to insist that a submitted poem must not have appeared on a poet's own blog; and all this for a poem for which in the vast majority of cases no financial payment is made.
So why should poets be expected to submit 4 or even in some cases as many as 8 poems at one time? It can only be that editors want to pick 'n' mix what they perceive as the best and dump all the rest. Poet-in-Residence wondered if Seamus Heaney would receive the following curt response if he sent an editor a single poem:
***Dear xxxxxx xxxxxx
As we do not accept single-poem submissions - we ask potential contributors to send a selection of 4 - 8 poems (please see our submission guidelines) - may I ask you to wait until you can send us a more substantial submission.
Poet-in-Residence is concerned that unless poets resist this trend it will become another general 'rule'. It will become almost impossible to get a single poem published on its own merit. Poets must not give in to these rip-off tactics.
Poet-in-Residence was today contacted by a worried writer; a poet and playwright of high standing, a man who has written drama for the BBC, had plays performed on the stage in London, received rave reviews in The Guardian and other newspapers. The e-mail was, by coincidence, about this very subject. The problem is out there. We poets must NOW deal with it!
***P-i-R replied to the curt missive as follows -
Dear A. Editor
You will notice that the poem is called Cello Solo so it wouldn't make any sense to feature this poem with 3 or 4 others (or however many you care to choose) of mine. Please check with ...... ............ if you don't understand why. I have his '........ ... ...........' by me. I reckon he's pretty smart; could figure it out.
To be frank, I don't like the new policy - that a bunch of poems has to be submitted. You may recall that you published a single poem submission of mine a couple of years ago. I think the new policy is self-destructive.
Dylan Thomas, to mention only one famous poet, posted single poems all over the place. I, a fellow Welshman, send out some poems as and when I complete them. It's a bardic weakness perhaps - but it's not a bad one.
Maybe you should have a rethink about the way forward for ...... ........ ...... . To my mind, with the new policy ...... ........ ...... may beome irrelevant. Simply another exclusive poetry club. And that would be a great pity.
I, as a poet, may also make conditions; promulgate policies along with poetics. But I'm not about to do that. I'll give you the opportunity for a rethink.
With best bardic wishes,