Today is the birthday of the renowned British poet and artist, William Blake, born on this day in 1757. Despite now being acclaimed as one of Britain’s greats in the fields of art and literature, Blake lived in near poverty for much of his life and died with his talent mostly unrecognised.
Blake’s work was pivotal in the Romanticism movement which was characterised by an increasing interest in the role of man and nature, in emotion, the power of the imagination, mysticism and the rights of the individual. He lived through a great period of social change – the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution; and much of his work can be viewed as social commentary.
One of my favourite pieces, Jerusalem, is really an ode to brotherhood.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
I wonder if it is coincidence that on the day of such a great poet’s birthday I got another rejection letter for one of my poems. The tally is now 175. I am always a bridesmaid but never a bride when it comes to getting a poem published. Sometimes it irks like a stone in my shoe, sometimes I can see the humour in it. If it were a matter of life and death I could not write a worthwhile poem. I have realised that I am not a poet.
But you know what? I really don’t mind. I got a nice rejection letter. A handwritten rejection letter from a poetry editor who said that even though she couldn’t use my work right now she hoped I would consider submitting more work in the future.
In the same pile of mail, in a little brown envelope made from recycled paper, was a cheque for a short story I submitted over 6 months ago. I had almost given up on it but there it was just in time for Christmas. The editor said she liked my originality and imagination. On the birthday of a man who prized imagination above many other things, that editor’s comment is a gift indeed. I agree with William Blake when he said:
” Imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself.”
I have decided to call enough, already on the poetry writing. I am taking those 175 rejection slips that sit like bricks in my desk drawer, straight to the recycling bin. I think I kept them to prove to myself I could rise above the rejection and keep on trying; but now I know I should leave the poetry to the poets so I can continue to do what I love – reading their work.
I have a friend called Roberta Jacobson, who once made a sculpture called ‘Writer’s Block’. It’s simply a transparent plastic cube, filled with rejection letters sent to her from every writer she knows, or communicated with via forums, etc.
It now stands in a museum in Frankfurt! (and, contains four of my rejection letters! :))
“Jack London received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story. ”
I’m no poet either, although some people think I can write prose. But that hasn’t stopped me receiving over a 1,000 rejections from publishers over 20 years.
Never let a publisher put you off anything. Okay, you may not get rich, but someone has to use imagination, even if publishers don’t appreciate it.
I am FAR from a poet…but I can imagine how rejection letters feel. Thats why I have NEVER submitted anything.
“But you know what? I really don’t mind. I got a nice rejection letter. A handwritten rejection letter from a poetry editor who said that even though she couldn’t use my work right now she hoped I would consider submitting more work in the future.”
Back again. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are different levels of rejection.
Editors, especially ones who edited quality publications, are BUSY people.
If an editor has takes the time to write that she hopes you would consider submitting work in the future – then you should be encouraged by this , not discouraged. I mean she wouldn’t have asked you to submit more work in the future if she thought you were completely devoid of talent.
I believe she is saying that you have the potential to be a published poet but you still have some more learning and work to do.
So, keep on writing poetry and keep submitting.
Travelrat – what a fantastic idea for a sculpture. I love it. You should post a photo of it on your blog if you can, it would give hope to rejected writers everywhere.
David – thank you for the pep talk. I know rejection is a major part of writing but sometimes you get sick of it. I can’t believe Jack London was rejected 600 times – what were the publishers thinking? He was one of my fave writers when I was a kid!
Anthony – Wow! To be visited by you is an honour indeed. I am a big fan of your blog but am usually too shy to leave a comment. I think it would be safe to say that, yes, you can write prose! Thank you so much for visiting. I am completely delighted!
Meleah – it’s actually not that bad, believe it or not. The first ones really hurt but then you sort of get used to it. It’s actually a really good way to fine tune your work.
David – thank you so much for your support. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!
I also have an immense collection of rejection letters. I’ve been saving them for when I purchase my one home. I plan on wallpapering my bathroom in them! I find it fun pull them out every once in a while and take stock of all the things I’ve tried to do, which is ever growing.
Don’t feel too bad about it . You make friends and give pleasure to a lot of people through your blog writing. It won’t pay your bills of course,but who knows what might come of it.
kristaniles – I love it. You have inspired me to hold onto mine. I think I might decorate the garden shed with them. Don’t give up, by the way. I believe that in the end persistence pays off!
diamondsandrust – thank you for stopping by and for the kind comments. It’s true, you know, you never know what lies around the corner!