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.


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