Friday, May 19, 2006

Beware the Dog

I TRY TO SHARE ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS WELL AS disappointments in this space. Here's a minor downer.

Usually, I don't sweat rejection slips, but this particular one keeps growling at me from the nightstand. About a year ago, Cave Canem, America's premiere organization committed to the cultivation of new voices in Black poetry, sent out a call for poetry submissions about 'the Southern experience and its influence in contemporary poetry.'

Southern. Experience. Poetry. This has my name written all over it! I thought as I licked my submission envelope shut.

True, I expected that the anthology would attract a deluge of Black southern poets (and I personally know quite a few excellent ones), but I thought that surely, in my six page submission, that there would have been something that would have struck a sweet spot with the editor(s).

Apparently not.

The rejection letter was polite enough. In fact, the rejection made me respect Cave Canem all the more. But this is an occasion for some serious introspection: If I, a contemporary Black southern poet, can't cut it for an anthology focusing specifically on contemporary Black southern poetry, then that says something.

Loud. Even if I don't hear it, I can feel it.

Something's stirring...


BLUE said...

I hope what this says is: Some folks say "Southern" with a peculiar tone. I hope the definitive "Inner Pickininny" poem was not in this rejected batch. That would make me quite curious ...

Never say die.


M. Ayodele Heath said...

Curiously enough, the "Inner Pickaninny" poem was in the rejected batch...

So, for now, I'll just scratch my head and leave the coffin cracked.

Christina Springer said...

Oh, Ayo! I'm disappointed!

And I'm also very curious as to which poems got in and - more importantly - why *they* got in. Of many of the Southern poets I know - and I know many talented, wonderful Southern poets - you deserve a space in the book! I'd be curious about which poems you'd sent.

I am perplexed and disheartened. And mostly, I am looking askance at a place I called home.

BLUE said...

don't you dare (!) ... you ARE the South. have been. (always wuz) will be. (even your unborn grandchirren know it.)


i'm with Christina on this one (but YOU know I've been looking askance for a while). i don't know if you know this, but i can't tell you how many times Christina has uttered your name in this "family" to let them know we are missing a family member.

CC is a good river in many ways, but i know that darlings and pop figures get first crack to lead all swimmers into the bend.

what a loss for them ... they who don't know that they don't know.

now keep on being definitive. authentic. original. fresh ... all the things that don't BORE me to death these days with poetry. i'm doing my geechee part. i need you to keep the other traditions in people's heads and mouths, too.

the survival of our music depends on us.

(Southern strong!) (Geechee power!)

eventually, they'll be scratching their heads. remember, you have so many other ways to be part of the living equation.

it will be; it is done.

(sorry for misspelling "Pickaninny," but you know geechees do a number on their grammar and opt for sound, no?)

M. Ayodele Heath said...


To be completely rational about this, there is truth in the rejection letteer. We all know the task of anthology editing is a complicated, if not impossible, one - a task which I do not envy at all. The more I sit on the letter, the less I take it personally.

The particular pieces which I sent did not meet 1) the mission of the anthology and/or 2) the arc drawn by the other poems in the anthology and/or 3) the taste of the particular editor(s) who weeded out submissions. What is really boils down to is that my path is not meant to cross with Cave Canem... yet. So, I'll just keep walking.

Here was a case where I was trying to force the universe into a shape for my own purposes. Imagine a 165 lb. man trying to move the heavens with his arms!


In other news, glad to see things worked out well for you in Pittsburgh. Your entry about the mission to obtain X-rays was fantastic.

Collin said...

You was robbed, man! Robbed!

Mendi O. said...

Ayodele, don't take it to heart. It's just a thing.

It's a scandal! said...


I got the same rejection letter...