I am finally putting together the new issue of SES. Our last issue was in Fall 2006.
SES tends to receive less submissions than other magazines. This is both good and bad. Less work, but less selection. When I consider that "Poetry" probably getting 300 submissions a week, the idea is staggering. But, then again, the editing of SES is a one person operation. Ths is why sometimes things don't move as smoothly as they should. I sometimes take awhile to get back to poets.
Also, rejecting poets for me is always difficult. I worry that I am dredging up bad karma when it's time to put my own work in the mail. It is actually easier to reject poets who have been published in choice magazines. I figure that if a poet can get his/her work into Poetry, Paris Review, and so on, that a rejection from SES will hurt only a little bit. However, some might see it the other way, how can I get into PR and not this tiny journal. I think that editors reasons for rejection are vast. The magazine could be full. The editor could be tired. The editor could have a narrow asthetic. S/he might only want to publish people they have heard of before. The poet's work might just be bad. University journals are particularly problematic as the first eyes on the poems tend to be those of graduate students whose ideas can be still forming. There are also the good ole' political reasons. A poet is kidding themselves if they think they don't exist.
The entire system though remains somewhat of a mystery due to the fact that the rejected poet receives a tiny slip printed paper or a form email. (I hope to shed some light on this in one moment.) But, rejection is tedious and soul-crushing, no matter where it comes from. And it is just part of the game. In the past year or so, I've been rejected from Paris Review, 3rd Bed, Harvard Review, Cue, Sentence, Drunken Boat, APR, Poetry, MiPoesis, Denver Quarterly, and countless others. I've had poems accepted by plenty of folks too.
Now, about those reasons. SES is slightly flawed because it reflects the taste of one person. The perfect magazine might be run by a group of people from all different schools/asthetics who had to "fight it out" and make something comprehensive. This was the orginal idea behind SES. I was more influenced by Language Poets and lyricism -- sort of like the Mei Mei Berssenbrugge hybrid. While my husband was from the Slam tradition. With these two backgrounds we thought we could make something expansive. Alas, the editing fell to me, the web stuff to Jim.
I try to be a diplomatic regarding style as one person can be. One can only expand the mind so much because that thing -- taste -- always gets in the way. I tend to like poems that are somewhat lyrical. I like prose poems. I like poems that have startling images. I like poems that challenge form (such a Mary Higgins). I rarely connect with political poems. Poems that have lines that sound like prose don't usually work for me. I don't like poems about sex. There are a number of words in poems that drive me nuts. (Yes, I can reject a poem based on a word!) The major problem I have with poetry is that I don't like work that is oblique without reason. This seems to be the trend right now. We can thank the language poets for that one!
But, life is contradictory. And I might break all these rules, as quick as I set them.
It's so hard to pin down, that thing that is poetry.
PS: Send poems!