Poetry News

Frontier Poetry Talks to Xandria Phillips About Rejections...

By Harriet Staff
Winter Tangerine, cover

Frontier Poetry editors, who bill their site as a "platform for emerging poets," spoke with Xandria Phillips, the Associate Poetry Editor of Winter Tangerine, about poetry rejections. "The community lifts itself up together or not at all. In that light, we’ve been asking some great editors from around the literary community about reasons for why poems may get declined from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances." From this helpful interview:

Frontier Poetry: From a craft standpoint, what causes you to reject a poem?

Xandria Phillips: I should start by saying that I see craft and content on the same continuum. They are inseparable for me.

I dislike being removed from the stakes a poem has set up, when the text’s underpinnings feel at odds; in other words, feeling the poem struggle against its own construction. Most often I think I find myself rejecting a submission for one of two reasons. The form and line-breaks of the poem feel like an afterthought or the approach and proximity to the poem’s subject matter feel less-than honest or under-excavated.

I look for forms that fully hold their poems. By this I mean that I want to see invention in the form itself and its relationship to the way the poem asks questions and makes claims.

Sometimes interruption can manifest in the technical construction of each the line. The syntax isn’t quite singing, or the tone doesn’t feel intentional. I appreciate when poems trust their readers. I read poems on cellular and macro levels. I like being swept away by the small details in each line, as well as the way meaning is built through the expanse of a poem’s language.

I like being able to build trust with a poem. I do not read poems in a vacuum. I come to them with the baggage and insight of someone who has been a victim of the English language’s veiled and blatant anti-Blackness, homophobia, classism, and exotification. I want poetry that puts pressure on my ability to imagine and reinvent ways marginalized people can exist in their worlds. I reject submissions most easily when they either reify tropes or build a false proximity between the poet and whatever social subjects are being explored.

What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?

XP: As a poet and editor I know for myself I prefer it when someone has read and critiqued my work before I send it out. My best readers are people close to me spiritually. They are honest about the work I share with them. It is important to contend with comments that rattle the post-draft glow and push the poet for the sake of stellar craft and execution.

I recommend exchanging writing with other writers and developing a code of accountability with your analysis of each other’s work.

More at Frontier Poetry.

Originally Published: October 17th, 2017