I share here my response to a form letter from a publisher which summarily and worse, anonymously, rejected my latest manuscript of poems, one I felt I had carved out of my very bone and sinew. Sayin’.
I read the generic rejection, stamped at bottom The Editor, took a breath (between sobs), and began composing my response in turn.
The bold, italicized content below would be mine.
May 15, 2023
Thank you for entering our annual chapbook prize competition.
That and $28.50 will get me a decent midsize Frappuccino. (Baristas don’t tip themselves.)
Unfortunately, your manuscript did not win publication, but we appreciated the opportunity to read it.
Never start sentences with tthe word unfortunately. It can only end tragically.
We always expect a high level of quality in these books.
OK, thanks, information I could have used yesterday!
… and this year’s entries did not disappoint. 2,160 manuscripts were entered.
Is that a comma after the number two? Please double check. I’ll just be here preparing myself to surrender all hope.
And so many of them were so good.
Now that… that’s gonna leave a mark.
After much deliberation, we’ve selected three winners for 2023:
Blah dee blah, dee blah…dee Bill de Blasio.
Two thousand manuscripts submitted…
Oh, I get it. Ridiculous numbers of entries. You’ve barely slept.
… translates into roughly 40,000 individual poems that we’ve read over the last three months.
You insist on throwing out numbers. How about one more? Precisely how long did it take you to read mine?
Given the quantity of poems…
Again with the numbers references.
… and that many of them are already published…
Textbook passive aggressive. Right there.
…it’s very difficult to consider them individually in this context.
Reading this letter is what it must have felt like sitting through the premiere of Gigli.
Very difficult, you say? Just for perspective, try and pretend you’re me right now, reading your letter.
If you’d like to submit any of these individually at some point, please feel free following the regular submissions guidelines—we won’t mind reading anything again.
You’re not the boss of me.
We also still have no idea which manuscript is yours…
Mine would be the one twice as long as the others as perhaps I didn’t get around to reading every single guideline … also the one that seemed to be bathed in its very own luminescent microclimate, right there amidst the hundreds of others.
So if you’d like to enter a revised version next year, you’re also free to do that.
Chances of this are akin to seeing Prince Harry’s face on a stamp.
Free? You’re waiving next year’s submission fee?
There were a great number of manuscripts that we would have been proud to publish—we simply chose the three that we loved the most.
Mine would have only made it four. Four is an honorable number… four seasons, four strong winds, the four alarmingly energetic Ninja Turtles… Um, the four-leaf clover. Heard of it?
Anyway, thank you again for entering the competition. I hope you enjoy the winners.
Enjoy the winners? Enjoy the winners?
Have I been recently canonized?
That’s a TV Show.