“It is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem. Therefore, I am asking you if you could, to send, say, 6 – 8 more poems by return e-mail? We would then have a better idea, and we can then see whether or not we can go forward.”
Six to eight.
I’m imagining a dialogue like this:
Joyce: I would like to submit my poem, “Trees.”
Editor: Dear Mr. Kilmer, while we enjoyed reading this one poem, it is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem.”
Joyce: It’s a darn good poem. It has staying power.”
Editor: Yes, but we would don’t know whether or not we can go forward with promoting you as a poet with just this one sample.
Joyce: Dearest editor, I wouldn’t call it a “sample.” It’s a poem. It’s inspirational. Universal and timeless. It will resonate with the entire English-speaking world. How about if I send you 3 others at this time? I’m kind of busy getting ready to defend our country, to enlist in the National Guard, you know. Maybe you can wait until I return from fighting World War I on the European front? I might have some really good poetry for you then. Very graphic, you know.
Editor: Mr. Kilmer, that’s not all. This poem is but twelve lines.”
Mr. Kilmer: It speaks volumes. That’s poetry.
Editor: I’m sorry, sir, but please do get back to us when you have more to show, and possibly longer poems in your collection.
Or possibly the dialogue with Ms.Charlotte Bronte would have been like this?
Editor: Ms. Bronte, your poem “Parting” is really very evocative. However, we would like to see additional samples of your writing. Besides, we’re much more interested in prose fiction these days.
Ms.Charlotte: Dearest editor, as an artist I must be true to my “voice.”
Editor: My dear Ms. Bronte, let me be blunt. Literary tastes are changing. The
marketplace simply does not support poetry any longer. And may I continue?
Ms. Charlotte: By all means.
Editor: (clears his throat): Besides, for a female writer, Ms. Bronte, I would suggest you look into literary prose.
Ms. Charlotte: Dearest editor, it’s so easy to be anonymous on the internet these days. Perhaps I can just create a male moniker and nobody will ever know that I and my sisters are of the delicate gender!
Charlotte Bronte went on to write her great and enduring novel, Jane Eyre. She and her sisters Emily and Anne wrote, under false appellation, the volume of poetry, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, published in London in 1846 by Aylott and Jones, which included the poem “Parting” but which sold only two copies.
Joyce Kilmer went on to write his enduring and beloved poem “Trees,” first published by the magazine “Poetry” in August 1913, subsequently published in his literary collection “Trees and Other Poems” before he enlisted and fought in World War I, when he died France, shot through the brain while he was out scouting for tactical information, in 1918.
To all the great poets, and to all the rest of the pack.