Like most necessary things, writing is hard. Communicating mental images or flashes of memory or triggering smells with tools that are, themselves, none of those things, takes work. Doing so in ways that makes sense not just to you but also to readers takes even more work.
I submitted some things to a great journal a few months ago. Even though the work I shared wasn’t ultimately accepted, I’m quite pleased with the feedback. Having given myself some time and space, I’ve come back to the piece they particularly liked with new eyes and ears. (Revision is always, literally, re-seeing. But it’s also re-listening and re-hearing.)
I greatly appreciate what the editor here is saying, and the time he took to say it, and the time he and the rest of the team take thinking deeply on these things:
We are writing with mixed news. While we are not accepting these poems, your submission made it through multiple editorial rounds. We particularly enjoyed “[title redacted]” with its exploration of anxiety and attempts at self-soothing. Our main concern, ultimately, was that there were moments when the piece felt too expository. We’d love to see the entire piece rooted in the wild imagery of the last third of the poem.
We recognize how much talent and skill went in to your submission, but we can only publish a small percentage of the work we receive. In the final round of selections, we start looking for the smallest of reasons–reasons in line with our own personal tastes–to reject a manuscript. This part of the process, we understand, is so very subjective. So we want you to know that while we are not accepting this manuscript, we were pleased with your submission, it was a joy to read, and we hope we’ll see more of your work in the future.