crappin' on about the inconsequential, poetry, rejected, the writing process, writing

Published (almost, not really): Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize

A while ago I went away by myself for a weekend to work up a couple of poetry manuscripts for some prizes, one of which was the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize.

I was pretty happy with what I walked away with after that weekend, and also pretty stoked to find out a couple weeks back that I’d been chosen as one of the 12 shortlisted poets for the prize. It was a nice affirmation and an indication that I might not be the only person who’s interested in poems featuring Robocop and Richard Nixon.

Sadly I didn’t make it as the final choice of the Whitmorians – that honour went to Carmen Leigh Keats. Congratulations to Carmen and best of luck with the making of her new book. Congrats also to my fellow shortlistees – it was nice to note that there were no massive heavy-hitting names on the list this year (at least none I recognised) after last year’s co-awarding of the prize to Jill Jones and Tracey Ryan.

Anyway, nice to be shortlisted. Now I just need to try to convince someone to actually publish these poems.

And, is it just me and have I just noticed, or is the Whitmore Press logo meant to look like the colon-P emoticon guy? :P

One History of the VFL, poetry, rejected, the writing process

Rejected: Nyan Cats, Football, Clocks, Moments, The Number 2 & Beeps.

Four more of my poetries were rejunkted by the folks at Overland, this time “If We Detached the Hands of the Town Hall Clock From Its Internal Mechanism and Let Gravity Have Its Way”, “…and for a moment”, “After the Beep” and “Second Comes Right After First”.

“We appreciate the chance to read it,” they said. “Unfortunately, the piece is not for us,” they said. Four times they said it.

I’ve noticed that there seem to be two tiers of rejection at Overland, the aforementioned “not for us” bit, and the less-all-encompassing “While we can’t use this particular piece at the moment, we like the writing, and hope you will continue to send us your work,” with which they greeted the earlier submission of my odd little Run-DMC-inspired biopoem of William Strunk Jr., leading me to conclude either that a) they liked the Strunk thing better than the other things and it might be a good idea to revise it and resubmit or b) they’re just tired of my writing altogether and are now resigned to sending me the less encouraging form rejection so that I’ll stop wasting their time. I think I’ll go with a) for now.

Continue reading “Rejected: Nyan Cats, Football, Clocks, Moments, The Number 2 & Beeps.”

rejected, the writing process

Rejected: robots, slams, questions, my daughter, beeps, cowboys, zombies, sorrow, &c, &c


cordite‘s Interlocutor issue rejected that old untitled “you start to ask a question…” thing, as well as “Again!” and “After the Beep”, which I thought all suited the theme quite nicely, but there you go. I swear I’m going to get these fuckers published by someone if it kills me.

Creative Nonfiction rejected (by implication) two submissions to their Australian blogging issue, one about toy robots and one about poetry slams, as in they sent me an email asking me to come to the launch of the issue that I’d submitted to, and then when I told them I assumed I wasn’t in the issue since it had been published and I hadn’t heard from them they said they “did make a final decision re: the blogs” and then went on to talk about how they were holding off doing any publicity until the journal’s official launch in the US, which I have no idea why that is relevant to not sending out rejection letters before the journal got published. The editor continued by promising a forthcoming final announcement about the selection and an email response, neither of which has eventuated.

On Wednesday night I came around about 14th out of 20 in the 2012 Castlemaine heat of the Australian Poetry Slam, well short of my 2nd place in last year’s heat, but not dissimilar to my placing in the actual 2012 Victorian final. Which isn’t a rejection per se, and I had a great night and saw some cool poets and was really happy with the piece I performed and how I performed it, but it seemed appropriate to add it to this litany of not winning all the same.

And then, yesterday, the New Yorker promptly, briefly and professionally rejected two poems: “The Sorrow Coefficient” and “Hindsight”, once again fulfilling their own 90-day-response promise. Journal and magazine editors, take note.

Long-time readers might be interested to know that I’m still waiting to hear from Islet about whether or not they want “Lord Melbourne’s Triumph”, which I submitted to Island in NOVEMBER LAST YEAR and which they handpassed to Islet in July.

I’m tired.

poetry, rejected, the writing process

Reject ALL the Poems!

  • Attention conservation notice: I had a bunch of poems rejected by a bunch of journals.
  • Keywords: poetry, rejection, persistence, Antipodes, Meanjin, Overland, Wet Ink, Island, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize
  • Word count: 1152 words

Hokay, time for another rejection round-up. Been a while since the last one and I’ve been a little busy with the sending out and stuff, but not much has stuck, so here we go (it’s a big yin this time):

First, Antipodes passed on “After the Beep”, an untitled doover that starts “you start to ask a question…” and a weird cutup Ern-Malley-inspired thing called “A Small Number of Black Swans”. I had a lovely chat with editor Paul Kane, though – I had to withdraw “After the Beep” because I’d submitted it to the Peter Porter prize without realising PPP was a no-multiples deal (it was subsequently rejected by PPP, as documented here).

Paul’s negatory email read:

“I read the poems with interest (including “After the Beep”) and while there is much to admire, I’m sorry to say they didn’t work out here. I trust you will place them elsewhere. We appreciate the opportunity to see your work. Good luck with it.”

Which was nice.

Continue reading “Reject ALL the Poems!”

i would like to recommend these people's writing, people who are nice enough to publish me, rejected

Going Down Swinging has a blog!

The lovely people at Going Down Swinging launched their new whiz-bang website a couple of weeks back. It’s the latest electronic incarnation of the beast first set up way back in the early ’00s, and it features a bunch of up-to-the-minute webby things like audio and video archives, a comprehensive overview of the entire back catalogue to date, a keeping-up-with-the-latest news section, an events guide, and the very first official Going Down Swinging blog, the responsively titled “The Blue Corner”.

(As a quick aside can I just say I’m loving the way some of the new crop of journal-related blogs are riffing off of their parental titles? Going Down Swinging begets “The Blue Corner”, cordite begets “guncotton” and Island begets “Islet”. It’s cute, is what I’m saying.)

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been invited to be a regular contributor to The Blue Corner, and my first bit is up there right now. It’s called “The Art of Rejection”. It’s a rumination on my time as editor of Going Down Swinging, specifically about the way that I and my co-editors approached the process of rejecting people’s writing – a topic regular readers will know is something I’m kind of intrigued by.

There’s some other choice stuff on the blog right now too, including some excellent insider stories from GDS founders Kevin Brophy and Myron Lysenko, as well as creative and nonfic posts from the likes of Emilie Zoey Baker, Pat Grant, Briohny Doyle and, as they say in the classics, many more.

Go. Read. Etc.

comic reviews, i would like to recommend these people's writing, Me and my opinions, rejected, reviews

Review: Blue

It’s not really news to anyone that Pat Grant’s graphic novel Blue is a good’un – he’s had great press both here in Australia and overseas. That said, I have a review of Blue that I originally wrote for The Monthly, which they passed on, and then Australian Book Review and the Age passed too (mainly cos they already had reviews lined up).  Seemed a shame to just leave it to moulder on the hard-drive, so here, in a slightly more formal register than I generally use on this blog, are my thoughts on this pretty speccie comic book.

And even though they didn’t take it, profuse thanks must go to John van Tiggelen at The Monthly for his excellent editorial feedback while I was writing this review.

A man reminisces about the day he and two of his high school friends went in search of a dead body on the local train line. As he tells his story he looks back at the history of his home town, lamenting its change for the worse. He attributes these changes to the arrival of a blue-skinned race of alien migrants.

Australian comic artist Pat Grant’s debut graphic novel Blue tells two stories: one about the social anxiety of adolescence, the other an exploration of racism in the face of migration.

The story’s setting on the northern coast of NSW, its focus on surfing culture, and its use of strine and slang make it distinctively Australian. Smaller details reinforce this, like sausage rolls with sauce, “We Grew Here, You Flew Here” stickers and Daily Telegraph posters.

Grant’s use of a minimal palette (black and white with shades of blue and grey) is striking, as is his lush, deft and fluid line work. His characters, both human and alien, are elastic creatures with rubber-band limbs and squashy bodies, reminiscent of 1930s cartoon characters.

Grant confidently explores the possibilities of layout in comics. Some pages are blank except for a few centred panels zeroing in on details from the landscape. Others are busy grids, each panel containing elements that can be read separately or as part of a larger picture or sequence of events. Others still are dense double-page panoramas illustrating the coastal environment that characters pass through.

Blue presents racism as an understandable response to social change. As a social commentary, despite its playfulness and humour, it never satirises the racism of its protagonists. Though aggressive and ill-educated, they are funny and likable.

The objects of their racism are less sympathetic: a mere source of confusion and resentment. There are a few moments, however, in which the aliens are convincingly humanised. These moments make Blue feel more like devil’s advocacy than a racist tract.

Some might want Grant to come out more strongly against racism, but not every book that deals with the subject has to denounce it. It’s true that Blue could be used as a pro-racist text if someone was so inclined, but it’s also a thought-provoking look from a less common angle at a significant issue in contemporary Australian society, using a relatively uncommon artform.

Grant’s illustrations have a stunning complexity and depth of meaning, and while his ability as a writer may not be as strong as his considerable illustrative powers, he is certainly a good yarn-spinner. His dialogue is a delight.

Blue is a beautiful, thought-provoking debut from an undeniable new talent, recommended for anyone interested in the graphic novel form.

Blue is available from Giramondo in Australia, Top Shelf in the US and Canada, and in full online at

crappin' on about the inconsequential, poetry, rejected, the writing process

Rejected: Beeps, Responses and The Number Two

Last week the Age knocked back a couple of my poems: “Response”, a perhaps-a-little-obvious poem about artistic responses to terrorism, and “Second Comes Right After First”, the poem I wrote (but didn’t perform) for the Victorian final of the 2011 Australian Poetry Slam.

Their rejection was simple, polite and quite quick, which is always appreciated. It came in the form of a typed letter with a hand-correction of the words “it has not” to “they have not” in reference to the multiple submission. Given how short the letter was, I was curious as to why the edit was made in pen after printing, instead of simply changing the pronoun on-screen before printing. Maybe Gig Ryan has a large stack of pre-printed rejections tucked away somewhere, and she chose the environmentally responsible option of not using another sheet of paper for such a minor consideration? We may never know.

Upon reflection “Response” might be a bit too sarcastic and a little bit of a one-note poem. I thought it was funny, but that’s not really an indication of anything. “Second” may also be one of those poems that suited its initial context, but which may never really engender a favourable response outside of that context. I’m not sure whether I’ll retire it or continue to send it out. I’m not going to edit it – it is what it is. Getting it published will be all about finding a sympathetic ear.

In addition to the above no-thankses, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize did not, in their ineffable wisdom, shortlist “After the Beep”. Their letter confirming as much was a little coy. It said, “This is just to let you know that the shortlisted poets have now been notified – in case you wish to place your poem(s) elsewhere.”  A little indirect, I thought, almost as though they didn’t actually want to say anything like “we didn’t pick you”, preferring rejection by omission. The shortlisted poets have been contacted. You haven’t been contacted? Oh – well, then. Draw your own conclusions, I suppose.

Also – veiled William Carlos Williams reference? Or am I reaching?

I kid because I love. Onwards and upwards with this poetry lark, methinks. Some new poems have been written since we last discussed rejection, and there are yet others out there awaiting validation in one form or another. The game, as they seldom actually say, is still very much afoot.

poetry, rejected, the writing process

Rejected: My kids, my wife, my bald head, summer, pizza, earthlings, window-cleaners…

Time for the latest tally of rejection!

Overland finally got around to knocking back the other two poems that I hadn’t heard from them about, so I sent them two more (“Again!” and “Forty Dollars”) for consideration and they knocked them back too – quite quickly this time, only taking four days to pass on them. Which is efficient, if not especially encouraging.

Southerly also knocked back four poems (“Again!”, “Forty Dollars”, “The Big Four Zero”, “This Morning as you Lay on Your Back I Saw”), but the email they sent me was all about how they’d recieved so much short fiction lately, which makes me think they sent me the wrong form rejection letter, which further makes me wonder if I should get all pedantic and confirm that their poetry editor also didn’t want the poems. Probably not.

Continue reading “Rejected: My kids, my wife, my bald head, summer, pizza, earthlings, window-cleaners…”

i would like to recommend these people's writing, Me and my opinions, poetry, rejected, the writing process


  • Attention conservation notice: I wanted to win something and got grumpy when I didn’t, but I’m feeling better now. Plus some thoughts on the nature of poetry slams.
  • Keywords: slam poetry, psychobabble, rationalisation, competitive arts.
  • Word length: 2,252 words.

So last week I competed in the Victorian State Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam at the State Library of Victoria. Which was nice.

About a week or so earlier I’d signed up to read a poem in the Castlemaine heat of the slam, thinking it’d be nice to get up in front of a crowd in a funky bar and perform. I hadn’t really done any readings since moving out of Melbourne almost six years ago, unless you count launching The Third Fruit is a Bird, but that was a very different kind of reading.

I had no real expectations about winning, but the prizes were pretty cool, so I had decided to approach the slam heat as professionally as I could, choosing to read “Are We There Yet?”, a poem that I thought fit the slam-poetry style well (based as it was on the monologues of early-’80s rap), and rehearsing the poem in the weeks leading up to the heat so that I could deliver it from memory instead of reading on the page, just like all the famous slam poets do.


I was really happy with my performance on the night. It felt like it had a certain energy to it, and it was fun adopting the persona of a big old arrogant ego-poet while I read. I got a pretty good score from the judges, and because I went on quite early in the night, it meant that I could spend the rest of it basking in the glow of a good performance well scored while sinking a few sherbets and enjoying the rest of the slammers’ words.

In the end I came second, which was lovely in a self-affirming kind of way. I could have used the $100 first prize, but the winner, Luka Lesson, was certainly much more of a slam poet than me – charismatic, impassioned and political – and anyway the second prize of a membership to Australian Poetry was probably what I would have spent the $100 on.

I got a bit of a shock when the MC, the redoubtable Emilie Zoey Baker, announced that first and second place winners had both won places in the State Final. I had joked earlier in the week with friends about keeping the date of the State Final free because I didn’t know if I would be in Melbourne or not that night.

Continue reading “Slammin”

poems, poetry, rejected, the writing process

Rejected: beeps, binaries & leftovers

Around this time last year I was much more knee-deep in excitings re: writing and people saying “yes we like this enough to commit pixels or ink and also our own endeavours to it”, but lately it’s been a big fat bag of no thankses landing on my doorstep. Sigh.

In the interests of full disclosure, then, here’s the latest list of poems that have been sent (back) to their maker:

“After the Beep” is one that’s been spoken of in terms of rejection before. If I flatter myself it’s a kind of quantum take on Xeno’s paradox if that makes any sense. Since I last sent it out and got it rejected by cordite I’d chopped it in half (I often find knocking the top off a poem can do wonders), but the folks at The Diagram passed on it all the same (I still haven’t cracked it for an actual made-of-words submission being accepted from yon diagrammers, despite their willingness to take found art and weird diagrams from me over the years, but never say never).

Anyway, I did some tweaking re: the stanza structure of “After the Beep”, setting it out in blank free-verse couplets (is that a thing? or have I just made it up?), and I must say I’m happier than I’ve ever been with that little poem, so it’s out there again, this time seeking a home at Antipodes, a journal I’ve never submitted to before. We shall see what we shall see.

Continue reading “Rejected: beeps, binaries & leftovers”