This is the End, My Friend: How to not get a poem rejection
I realize poets don’t get much feedback on their rejections. I wanted to address some common problems we see that can get your poem rejected from our slush. The biggest thing we are seeing is an ending that just falls flat. The poem is chugging along with some good imagery and turns of phrase, and then the end goes to the easy conclusion. It wants to wrap everything up with a pretty bow.
We ask that you take the bow and stuff it in the trash. Shred it into confetti. We want an ending that leaves us thinking. That leaves us with a feeling there is more to the poem than is being said here. That makes us want to read it all over again. Not to say we should have to spend a lot of time puzzling out the ending. No one wants that. It’s a balancing act.
Perhaps your poem should have stopped a stanza before the end. We see a lot of this. There is a nice turn of phrase or image that would be a perfect end to the poem, but in the rush to get to a conclusion, any conclusion, it’s overlooked. Examine your poem carefully. What’s been said before? Do you have a new way of saying it? Does your ending border on cliché? If it’s an elegy, does it end on the maudlin?
Where to stop when writing a poem is tough. Always go back to asking, what do I want the reader to take away from this poem? What is going to be the reader’s last impression? Sometimes the first line would better serve as a last line. I know, I know, then you have to come up with another kick ass first line. You can do it. It’s what got you excited about the poem in the first place. Try and recapture that feeling at the end of the poem. Because if you aren’t excited about your final words, the reader isn’t going to be either. Flex those poetry muscles. End strong.