Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances: Marisa Crane, Collective Unrest

As a platform for emerging poets, our mission is to provide practical help for serious writers. 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 for their frank thoughts on why poems may get accepted/rejected from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances. Today, we’re speaking with Marisa Crane, Poetry Editor of Collective Unrest.


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

Marisa Crane: I’m sure that this has been said a million times before, but I would tell any new poet (and myself) to read, read, read literary journals, both print and online. There’s no way to know what type of work a journal publishes without first reading a few issues. Who knows, maybe you aren’t even a huge fan of that particular journal. Then you will know it’s not on the top of your list of places to submit. Conversely, a journal you’d never heard of may wind up surprising you, and you’ll get to delight in the fact that they’ve got a new fan! Submitting work isn’t just about submitting, which I think a lot of writers learn over the years. It’s about reading and supporting fellow artists and in turn, reading and supporting the journals so that they stay alive. You won’t have anywhere to submit if you don’t engage with the magazines and the authors they have published. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours each day reading various journals, but I would say that reading journals should be built into your schedule just as writing, reading books, and researching publications are.


How many rejections have you faced and how do you deal with them?

According to my Submittable, I have 350 rejections on there alone. That’s not counting all the journals that accept submissions by email or mail. I would venture to say the figure is closer to 650 if I include agents as well. How I deal with them depends on the nature of the rejection. If it’s a magazine submission, I don’t typically get too affected by the rejection. I either revisit the piece and decide whether it’s good as is or if I should revise. If I still love it, then I maybe will send it a few more places to ease my mind, and if it could use some edits then I revise. If I receive a rejection for a workshop, fellowship, or from an agent, I typically deal with the rejection either by being sad on Twitter and then deleting the tweet after I talk some sense into myself and/or I drink a beer and write a story out of pure spite. You’d be surprised how many good stories I’ve written out of spite. I also will usually text my friend who is in an MFA program and she will remind me how rigged the entire system is and then I feel a bit better. Get yourself a friend who keeps it real about the publishing industry.


Does your publication seek out specific styles or aesthetics of poetry that writers submitters should know about?

Honestly, no! And I think we are probably unique in that way because our mission is much more important than any singular style or aesthetic. It’s more important that the work submitted to us is in some way social justice-oriented and that the contributors are progressive/liberal. We have published so many different ranges of work from satire to confessional to highly experimental to erasure poetry and everything in between.


What book of poetry / craft would you always recommend to new poets?

Books of poetry that I would recommend to new poets are Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar or When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen. I know that every poet under the sun has read them, but it’s the best answer I can give because these two books changed me as a reader, writer, and person, and honestly, what higher compliment is there? Calling a Wolf a Wolf changed my relationship with confession and vulnerability. It also re-introduced me to self-examination, as well as showed me the innovative ways in which I can engage with my own feelings. Calling a Wolf a Wolf is a call to become intimate with oneself, and it is delightful and terrifying at once. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities showed me that poetry can be playful and full of joy, even if the world is asking it to be something else. And moreover, that joy and loss and grief and tenderness can all live together inside a person, inside a poem, inside a life.


What is one sentence that grounds you in the face of rejection, frustration, and productivity-exhaustion?

Don’t forget to play.


Marisa Crane is a queer, non-binary writer whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Wigleaf Top 50, and elsewhere. She is the EIC of Collective Unrest and a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Originally from Allentown, PA, she currently lives in San Diego, CA with her wife.


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