Friday, December 4, 2009


My very first night free of the shackles of my novel (see NaNoWriMo), I sat down at my computer and had no idea what to do. Of course, once my routine breaks back down, I won't have that problem, but I've devoted 2-4 hours every night, for a month, to writing a novel, and suddenly, a hole opened up in my day.

So as little as I wanted to, I spent the entire night submitting to publications. My poetry, that is. It's been a long time in coming.

Long story short, I submitted to a particular publication, which I will not currently name because I am angry, and it's difficult for me to tell how logical I am being when I'm angry. But Publication X responded immediately.

Anyone who has ever submitted a poem to a magazine/journal knows how strange this is.

It read as follows:

"Sorry, but negro is not a word we use; we are unable to offer you publication in Publication X."


Okay, I get rejected all the time. We all do (I hope. It's not just me, is it? hahaha) and it's never any skin off my back. Most of the time, it's just a form letter. And sometimes it's a little note, and either way, I understand. It happens.

But is it me, or is this message a little judgemental? I mean... I sent 5 poems. And it sounds as if they were all rejected because of the content of one of them. I mean, their policy would immediately disallow Langston Hughes from ever being published.

I am no Langston Hughes.

But there is a difference between 'We can not accept your poem because we view it to be vulgar/course/offensive" and "We can not accept your poem because we don't like one of the words."

Three things before I go:

1. Negro, as it was used in the poem, wasn't justifying its use as a derogatory category, or even trying to justify its use in a non-derogatory way.

2. The magazine is based in England. Does this make a difference? I don't know.

3. Hell, here it is, for you to enjoy, or else, agree with Publication X's decision:

The Negro and the Jew Lose their Loves

"I threw away a pearl richer than all my tribe." -Othello
“My daughter! O, my ducats! O, my daughter!” -Shylock

I stand at Stratford-upon-Avon, and watch tourists,
their skins shaded as Shakespearean villains.

The serfs nod, smile holy-white,
kneel, snap photos, speak tongues.

I wish to grab one about the passport,
throttle him like a limp chicken,

until he squawks as Shylock over his mint,
Othello, his white idol, his tar-brushed skin. I’ll yell:

“393 years, it's been. Where is your Shakespeare?
And if you haven't found him, where is your pen?

(A quick note: Both the quotes from Shakespeare are in reference to lines in their respective plays which are considered by many scholars to be racist. In the first, Othello bemoans the loss of his white wife, claiming that her 'pearl' is worth more than all of his race. In the second, Shylock, a merchant and Jew, believes that he has lost his daughter and money, and seems confused as to which to cry out for.)


  1. Sounds like they definitely took offense to the word. I don't find the way you used it offensive. I just can't see what other way you would have said it in the title to do what you wanted to do. Seems like they misintrepreted what you wrote as you being racist or something. Maybe you could send them a note back to explain that wasn't your intent? I don't normally suggest contacting editors after rejection, but this isn't to plead for publication. IDK. Or you could just let it go.

    OH! But don't let that drama overshadow the fact that you deserve major kudos for getting your stuff out there!!! WAY TO SUBMIT!!! Good luck with all the rest of your notifications!

  2. Maybe you caught them on a bad day... I don't know. I don't mind the word the way you used it. I think it is purposeful--definitely not gratuitous in any way.

    Seems to me like maybe you caught an editor on a bad day. Or maybe their attempt to be P.C. has turned into some sort of delusion that we must ignore all forms of racism, instead of confronting them headon. I don't get it.

    -rachel marsom

  3. I actually have an update on this. It's forthcoming, I promise. haha