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Those Vital Clichés


PUBLISHED: March 14, 2008

This was supposed to be a blog entry about how authors submit poetry to us covering clichéd topics that there’s just no way we’re going to print. But then I did the math, calculating the percentage of our submissions and published work that contain any of a dozen mainstays of poetic terminology, and found that precisely the opposite is true.

 submittedpublished
water 19.9% 24.8%
death 14.1% 15.2%
blood 11.7% 13.8%
stone 11.1% 16.0%
bone 9.1% 7.8%
poetry 7.6% 10.3%
heart 7.5% 6.7%
fish 7.0% 5.3%
birth 5.5% 7.4%
darkness 3.9% 17.0%
rust 3.3% 2.5%
cat 2.3% 2.8%

As it turns out, our editor is all about those dreaded paeans to cats. The moral of the story is that talent transcends topic, I suppose; in the hands of a skilled poet, even stone/bone can be made a vital couplet again.

03/17 Update: Those who exist in the pointy little overlap in the Venn diagram of Lit Geek and Stats Geek may also enjoy the ten most common titles of submissions that we’ve received in the past year, the percentage of submissions that are totally inappropriate for us, our rate of international submissions, and the hazards of being way too efficient in dealing with submissions.

03/17 Update 2: To clarify the original post and to correct some of the blogs linking here: we’re not declaring that we publish “clichéd” poetry, only that words that would appear to be clichéd don’t preclude a poem that uses them from being good, or worthy of publication. As noted in the original post: “talent transcends topic.”

10 Comments

Jessica's picture
Jessica · 11 years ago
I just read this and thought such impressive statistics required a response–though said response may well highlight the perils of eating lunch at one’s desk on time too often…  ;-) Virginia and Those Vital Cliches Thoughts of death by water make my blood run cold, provide ample fodder for the darkness in my soul. Virginia with those stones heavy in her pockets, fish soon to feast upon her bones, how instead I would have wished for her rebirth by poetry or a delving straight to the heart of it, past the daily rust and debris to find calmness at the start of it, the gentle warm thrum of a cat lying in a spot of sun.
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Tab's picture
Tab · 11 years ago
Very nice, Jessica. I am surprised to see that “love” wasn’t listed as a vital cliche.
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david's picture
I’ve written a poem that I think you should consider for publication: “life” water poetry stone blood death With some faulty math my calculations say this has a 80% chance of being published. You should definitely consider it.
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wordsworthless's picture
wordsworthless · 11 years ago
The only difference between poetry and that which is not poetry is how you use the return key. Which may explain why it is a dead art form, Practiced by many but read by none.
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solomon grundy's picture
Au contraire, wordsworthless. Lyric poetry is read and recited by millions if not billions of devoted fans every single day. Jay Z is the new Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
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wordsworthless's picture
wordsworthless · 11 years ago
Solomon: Of course I was making an observation about “literary” poetry and trying to make the trenchant point that despite all the claims that (modern) poetry is so popular, there are thousands as many practitioners as consumers. But I do concede your point, and you have identified a bona fide market for artful verse. To digress, I will note that while I was typing my first post, my cat jumped on my keyboard and the actual results are shown below. This is the same cat who likes to jump on our piano and plink out discordant tunes and who once jumped on my Bose radio and changed it to a Christian station. Anyway, his poetry is pretty bad, but this was the actual result of his “typing” before I chased him off: The only difference between poetry and that which is not poetry is how you use the return key. Which may explain why it is tyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyygttttttttt­tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt­tttttttttttttt nmlo0iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii­iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii6
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zoe's picture
zoe · 11 years ago
Worsworthless, your poem is the single coolest thing I have ever read. I shall print it, and carry it with me always.
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wordsworthless's picture
wordsworthless · 11 years ago
Zoe, you do flatter me, and I shall carry your response now and ever. It was my first “published” poem.
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Robert's picture
Robert · 11 years ago
This 3/17 update 2 did not clarify a thing. Rather, its redundancy diluted the elegance of the original post.
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