Negation

      by Philip Salom

In memory of hardworking journal editors

I hope I’m not offending you, but if
you could just find a way of cutting
the first nine lines of your sonnet . . .

I’m sorry to disappoint you yet again.
I fear I’ll never be the ideal reader of your work—
they just whizzed straight past me.

These poems are full of fine things, then
a sudden banality rears its head.

I’m sorry to be returning your terrific poems
but it is a committee decision in the end
and —— just wouldn’t go along with them.

Unfortunately, we must reserve our pages
for beginners and superstars. I’m afraid
your work falls . . . somewhere in between.

(Long distance reply)
Dear ——, really liked these poems a lot
but am sorry to be returning them.
Please do send more. Perhaps
you’ll be over this way soon.

Goodness me! I thought I sent these back
months ago! They just didn’t speak to me, quite.

Dear Sir/Madam. Please realise we only take poems
from professional poets.

Forgive me for the terribly delay, but I’ve
been busy with the Writers Festival and the Prize Committee
and a load of other important things.
Doubly sorry, then, to be returning your work.

I am wondering if you could just cut the middle
two stanzas . . . I mean, it’s a very fine poem,
brilliant, even, perhaps. But I don’t know. No.

We voted for your work but then
a couple of poems from a better known poet
(who I happen to bonking) turned up. Sorry.

I’m afraid your poems lack
the appropriate axiological centre, and that line about
the old woman suggests an unexamined aspect
of your work you’d do well to look at.

Lovely to see someone working with
the long poem again. I’d like to take . . . the haiku.

Perhaps you could try something less
ambitious than the haiku.

It’s not that I think the poem’s unsuccessful
it’s just that I couldn’t go anywhere with
that “go nowhere” last line. And it would
be a pity to cut it, so I’m returning the poem.

BUT BY ALL MEANS SEND MORE


From New and Selected Poems, South Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle Press, 1998.