Feedback Is a Fickle Mistress

Tuesday’s post has me thinking about how hard it is to find good feedback, and a brief Googling of poetry forums only left me more curious. We’re always looking for ways to improve, but what could use improvement?

This blog allows anonymous comments, and I’d love for you to leave one. What do you really think? Any opinions or objections or questions — hit me with them. This seems like a good thing to do occasionally. If you don’t have a comment in mind, here are some questions:

–If you’ve read it (and listened), what do you think of the slam tribute? Was it worth doing? Was it enjoyable? Did you learn anything from it?

–What about the E-Reviews? We’re trying to publish any cohesive and thoughtful opinion, that’s reasonably written. I’ve had to turn down several reviews, but the acceptance rate is pretty high. We have reviews written by last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, right next to those who are first publications. Is this a good policy? Are the reviews useful, or should we be more restricting?

–We publish a poem by Alan Fox in every issue. Does this bother anyone? Is this accountability? A curiosity? Vanity? I see it as a kind of editorial, but we’d stop doing it if people started to complain. No one ever has, though, and the only responses we receive have been positive. What do you really think?

–Does finding a RATTLE postcard in your mailbox piss you off?

–For the future, what tributes are more interesting — social group or stylistic groups? Greatest Generation or Slam Poetry?

–Is there anything wrong with the way we handle submissions? Have the contents of rejection letters bothered you (mentioning features of the website or the Rattle Poetry Prize, for example)?

–Speaking of the Rattle Poetry Prize, is there a way we might improve that? How do you feel about contests in general?

Answer any of these questions, or just use this as an opportunity to say anything that’s on your mind, good or bad. Just please do it anonymously, so you don’t feel inhibited. We won’t know unless you tell us.

11 thoughts on “Feedback Is a Fickle Mistress

  1. The e-reviews section should list the book titles as well as the authors.

    The poetry prize ought to allow simultaneous submissions.

  2. Tim,
    I agree that Rattle rocks — it’s an excellent place for fresh, exciting work, and one of the journals that I plan to send my best work to.

    I won’t enter the poetry prize contest, however, because simultaneous submissions aren’t allowed, and also because of the $16 entry fee. In the end, it’s not worth it for me to pay $16 bucks to have my poems held for any period of time.

  3. Thanks guys…although these comments aren’t anonymous!

    Good suggestion on the e-reviews, Steven. The list is formatted as it is for purely aesthetic reasons (I didn’t want a super-long list down the page, and didn’t want the dropdown bar to be huge), but I’m going to have to do something about that.

    On the no sim. subs. rule for the RPP, I don’t think I can change that. There’s a lot of money at stake — say someone simultaneously submits, and some other journal accepts it. Would you trust that person to then remove themselves from the chance at winning $5,000? Maybe some are honest, but this seems like a dangerous trap.

    Another problem is the logistics of it, given the blind review policy — if someone did withdraw a poem, we have to have a neutral non-editor track down the entry and pull the poem, so as not to blow the poet’s cover. This, in the middle of feverishly reading thousands of poems. That’s a real pain in the ass. We could say that you have to withdraw the entire set, but would anyone cop to that?

    Besides, if you enter near the deadline, the wait is only 6 weeks…most contests are closer to 6 months. Do any other similar competitions allow simultaneous submissions?

    One thing that I just realized, though…I don’t care if you’re submitting the poems simultaneously to presses as part of a book. That process is so slow that it wouldn’t make a difference to us. I hope no one is hesitating to submit because of that scenerio; I hadn’t even thought of it.

    Thanks for the comments, Steven and Peter. Good things to think about.

  4. Hi Tim, That clarifies things. I was mostly worried about submitting the same poems I’m submitting to manuscript contests. I’d certainly submit, if that were allowed.

    Thanks for your response.


  5. Rattle is fantastic. Within the last year I started looking seriously at a variety of literary mags, and Rattle, without a doubt, is one of my favorites. The writing is thought-provoking and accessible, and I’ve recommended it to several people. Thanks for being one of the least pretentious publications around! As far as the rejection letters– I received several, ;( but yours was truly the most thoughtful. Hey, getting a full-size letter as opposed to a tiny scrap of paper is a big deal! The fact that you’re ASKING for this feedback is a big deal! 🙂

  6. tim, the slam tribute was alright. reading marc smith’s comment regarding the trend to take the audience out of the slam and how he feels about it validates how i feel. at the green mill, the audience can give the poet everything he/she has coming, the good and the bad. i really feel that’s why it’s called a “slam.” but everywhere else i go, some guy who claims to be the local slam master announces to the crowd that “we boo the judges, not the poets.” audience reaction is squashed, bad poets get the same polite applause they’d get at a regular reading, positive reinforcement for shitty work. and everyone goes home feeling warm and fuzzy. it’s become an institution, the exact thing slam was supposed to react against.

  7. Great publications, and perhaps
    the highest editorial integrity
    I have seen.
    There seems to be a bit of a
    tilt towards “gritty stories”,
    but the 2006 winners appear to
    ease that a bit.

  8. Tribute editions make it really
    tough to send to a place, if’
    you aren’t coincidental to a theme.
    Not a direct thing, but more than
    scattered tribute coverage inhibits
    the general search ffor the best…yes?

  9. Nope. Tribute themes only comprise about 20% of the poems we publish in any issue. The rest — around 65 poems — is all open to anyone.

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