It’s true – our fall issue reading period was scheduled to run until September 15 OR until we had enough good work to fill the issue. Guess what? We got tons of good work and were able to fill our issue more quickly than we imagined. Breathing room for all is the happy result as we move into our production phase. We appreciate all the poets who submitted work to us and are stunned by the overwhelming response to our special crone-themed category that asked for work celebrating aspects of being older, wiser, braver, and the many other wonderful things about crones from women poets over 50. We were very interested in pieces that did not conform to stereotypes.
And that leads us to a few things we’d like to share about the pieces that were rejected this reading period.
We noticed that there were several submissions in our special category that focused only on the poet being an over-50 female. Being part of a demographic is not the same as writing to a theme. If a piece came into that special category without being connected to the theme, it got rejected even if the poet was in the demographic we sought. There were some good pieces in that group, pieces that we might have considered as general submissions for another issue if they had come to us that way. It saddened us that this was the case so often and we thought it would be good to point that out here. Poets, be very careful when you are asked to write to a theme that also asks for work from a specific demographic. You have to hit both marks to make it work.
And, among those that didn’t really stick to the theme, we noticed a lot of work about loss, abuse, failure, fear. We get a lot of poetry about loss in general, and we have gotten very picky about that. Writing about loss needs to have a bit of hope woven into it, or a bit of internal change that happens as a result of loss – something that the reader can grab onto. Pieces that wallow in loss become difficult for anyone to read all the way to the end. If you are a poet who writes about loss, ask yourself what you hope the piece will eventually do for you and for your readers. Leave some breathing room, some glimmer of light that provides a way out.
Another thing we noticed was that there were many pieces that did, indeed, celebrate aspects of aging but they missed the mark as far as steering clear of stereotypes. Aging is a complicated process, different for everyone even as women over 50 share many aspects. When it came to celebrating memories, several pieces focused on the late Sixties, a time period that has been done almost to death. We kept asking ourselves, as we read the work, what might be celebrated here that is unique? Or that is universal, but the narrator’s take on it is a little different? What is being presented as joyful but is a cliché? What memories connect to this moment in a positive, joyful, meaningful way? Do grandmothers, for example, have to be defined in relation to their grandkids, or can they take the idea of grandmother and breathe new life into it? What is funny about this whole aging thing? What is dignified about it? What has emboldened women of a mature age? What older woman believes it when someone tells her she has become irrelevant? You get the idea.
Finally, we noticed that we received submissions in both categories that were out of season. We pay a lot of attention to the seasonal feel of the pieces we accept and, if a piece sent to us for the fall issue feels like summer or spring, we must – and do – reject it. We’ve consistently published work that fits the season in which the issue appears and don’t plan on changing that about our journal.
There are other reasons, of course, for rejecting some of the poems that come to us, and most of those have to do with the work not fitting the aesthetics of Gyroscope Review. We want you to know that we read everything. We considered everything. We looked for gems. Each poem that comes to us is handled with care and respect.
We hope that this post helps future poets figure out whether their work fits here, and encourages more attention to the details in our guidelines, seasonality, special themes, and work that has previously appeared in our pages. Part of our job as editors is encouragement and education around submissions from poets everywhere. We hope we’ve done well by you.
Our next reading period opens on October 1, 2018. We are looking for pieces for our Winter 2019 issue, so if you write poems with a seasonal bent, think of winter after the holiday season. Remind yourself what we are looking for by reading our guidelines HERE.