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Dealing with Rejection - Mark Peterson's Blog

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Dealing with Rejection

Blog Posted:2/20/2014 2:18:00 AM
I've read surveys stating that our deepest fear is that of speaking in front a large group. This is tied to rejection. No one enjoys it under any circumstance, but consider how it is amplified when a whole crowd has turned on you. No one responds to the key points you are trying to make. Your jokes fall flat. You look at your outline; so many more topics to consider, so do you cut it short and listen to the sighs of relief, or persist to the end, punishing them for their tepid response, knowing you'll never hear from them again anyway?

I've had pretty good luck in the past, speaking in front of large groups and haven't fallen flat too often. In smaller groups where there is eye contact, I've fared a little worse. I'm thinking that this is because everyone is trying to prevail in the moment, and the competition can be brutal--all the more frustrating because the well-considered point or best formulated idea may not carry the day. Instead, the ones who talk the loudest or are the best at maneuvering through the intricacies of the group dynamic often carry the day.

I have such disrespect for manipulative people, and my tendency is to withdraw when they seem to prevail, like a defeated warrior who pulls back in hope of triumph at a later day. Over time, I've learned a little about how to pick my battles, and I do so carefully. I'm tired of the politics of life. In fact, I'm tired of politics too and most kinds of wrangling, as people attempt to foist their ill-considered opinions on the group of fawning, servile sycophants seated in front of them or sitting mute in thrall of media.

I do stick up for what I believe, but do so in a quiet, reserved sort of way; however, I can use very specific language and razor sharp vocabulary when necessary. Often people don't comprehend for hours or days the invectives I've hurled.

Recently, I was disappointed at the performance of a contest poem and began feeling disillusioned about the whole PoetrySoup process. I felt rejection and disliked it. The Soup is a really neat, feel-good sort of place but can also seem disingenuous when those who have praised work on one hand then reject your best efforts in a contest. So why not just quit entering contests and make all the bad feelings go away. I tried that.

One person took time to point out why my poem might not have been as good as I thought it was, and that's fair. My poetry can be vague, certainly at first glance. But I assure you, I knew exactly what I meant when I hit the submit key.

I am truly in awe of the severely gifted poets I encounter here and view my work as comparatively mechanical. I'm a scientist and see poetry in numbers and concepts. I am able to see and comprehend the trend of a hundred thousand data points but then struggle finding the right words to complete a single couplet. Nevertheless, I work hard until it all makes sense.

And here is my point, the work poets put into their rhymes or prose ought to be matched by effort of the reader. How often people give up without a fight. I've had some say that they didn't understand a particular word in a poem of mine, so they stopped reading. As a youth, I'd read and come across words I didn't know. I'd ask my mother what they meant, and her response was uniform: "Go look it up." Such a gift, and it has served me well throughout life.

And it's not always just a word. Sometimes it's a concept that makes people stumble. If I talk about space-time's strange and distant shore, I'm not summoning an image of a Caribbean vacation. When I write about an old star collapsing right before it explodes, it's because that's what some kinds of old stars do. Be curious and find out more. Honor the effort. If I bemoan anything about humanity, it's the lack of curiosity...of poor appreciation for nuance. People want everything at the click of a button or tap on a screen. Read my poem "Pen in Hand," and you'll see a rhyme about this.

My passion is astronomy, the science of the barely there where researchers deal every day with the tiniest nuances imaginable. Radio astronomers struggle to detect the meager electromagnetic murmurs whispered across gulfs of space that are countless trillions of miles in extent. If all such radio energy arriving at our planet over the past five billion years were compressed into a single moment, it would allow a 60 Watt light bulb to glow for less than a second. Now go look up "electromagnetic."

I work hard to understand others' poetry. Most of the time I get it, but occasionally I don't but recognize brilliance beyond me, worthy of praise anyway. If I don't get it, it's not through lack of effort.

So I entreat you to try. You will be enriched in ways you can't imagine and might even get a chance to brag about some new morsel or gem you've teased out of the recondite puzzle of existence. Hopefully our paths will cross at that moment.
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Date: 2/23/2014 9:10:00 PM
and I DO ..LIKE to learn new words! I'm thrilled when some one uses a word I haven't seen before! As to being rejected, I have learned the hard way it really is best to 'consider the source' http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/poetrysoup.com
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/23/2014 9:40:00 PM
Thank you very much for contributing these thoughts and memories. My wife thought it odd that I would settle down with a book before falling asleep, only to come to a word I didn't know and then switch over to the dictionary instead. I loved reading about the different shades of meaning, like with sagacity and perspicacity . English is wonderful this way--such nuance.
Date: 2/23/2014 9:05:00 PM
I love words, even if I don't know what they mean, I was reading Webster's Dictionary out loud at 5 [I was entertainment at family parties! LOL] Though I didn't know what they meant I could sound them out quite easily and I LOVED how they sounded and felt in my mouth and it was a powerful feeling! My son was the same way he loved multi syllable words at 2 he would say cal cu la tor and laugh & and laugh [he new what it was too!] he also loved es cu la tor & would toddle run into the mall and head straight for it! NOT knowing the meaning of a word has never stopped me from reading! don't want to look it up? no need [it's just 1 word] get the gist, the context will tell you!
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Date: 2/21/2014 11:59:00 AM
Mark, I am enjoying this conversation and the variety of thoughts being shared here. I do think it is great to write poetry that makes the reader think. But ... you knew there was going to be a but ... I think there is a difference between making the reader think about what the poem means versus thinking about what the words in the poem mean. I love it when I read a poem that makes me think about the meaning or poses questions or can be interpreted in many different ways given your experiences and point of view. I love less poems that make me scratch my head and pull out my dictionary. But, again, that's just me. Like ice cream, poems come in many flavors for good reason.
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Flach Avatar
Joe Flach
Date: 2/21/2014 1:30:00 PM
Yeah, Mark, I guess you could say I am a sesquipedalian-phobe.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 1:26:00 PM
So you eschew obfuscation?
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 1:16:00 PM
This is a good point you make about words and meanings. I've been around for 70 years, studying words for decades, so--and I'm not trying to seem superior--when I encounter a word I've never heard, I tend to lose interest in the whole thing. In other words any well-written, non-contrived poem is worth reading.
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Joe Flach
Date: 2/21/2014 12:09:00 PM
Its just that, sometimes, I think fancy words can distort the message and insert too much noise in the thought process. It was suggested to me, very early in life, to not let complicated words complicate complicated thought.
Date: 2/21/2014 11:39:00 AM
I just re-read this blog and have to say that it is one of the best conversations I have seen here. Different points of view, but all constructive and thoughtful
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 1:18:00 PM
Yes, Roy, I'm enjoying this very much. Thought provoking and very likely to improve my writing, as the comments lend useful perspective and demand focus. Unfortunately, leaving me without excuse! ;>)
Date: 2/21/2014 3:11:00 AM
Great blog! ...Sometimes the winning poem is not the best poem. Sometimes the judges favorite poem does not make it to the winners list. Contests come with their string of rules that influence placement. A poem has to resonate with the reader. Personally, I have written poems that make sense only to me for the sake of self preservation - those I consider my best efforts but as can be deciphered they do not resonate with the readers. The first time my poem did not place in a contest I was crushed but as my winning ratio began rising the losses became less significant. In the end, keep writing.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 10:59:00 AM
A lot of the poems I write are cathartic, written solely for personal solace. I gaze at them in the dark and silence, and they soothe but never proceed as far as the Submit Your Poetry button. What power your words summon.
Date: 2/21/2014 12:18:00 AM
Joe Flach raises an interesting question. He prefers to take complex ideas and render them comprehensible. I tend to leave phrases in doubt or subject to interpretation. Perhaps not all questions resolved. Certainly, there is validity in his approach, but how do you feel about mine?
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 10:41:00 AM
Marvelous comment, Vicky. I wish I had been able to express myself this way, but I'm certainly glad you could. This brings to mind the Socratic method, i.e., a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas. (Wikipedia). The purpose is to arouse; then learning is internalized.
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Vicky Tsiluma
Date: 2/21/2014 3:15:00 AM
Making people see or making people think? Mmmmh... Taking complex ideas and making them comprehensible is a gift, I agree. But instigating people to think? Now that's power.
Date: 2/20/2014 10:33:00 PM
Mark, I understand and appreciate what you are saying. I feel your frustration and wish you the best in coming to terms with this agonizing dichotomy. On the other hand, I take the opposite approach. I have always been most impressed with people that can take very complex and complicated ideas and state them in such clear, simple and precise language that any idiot (like me, for example) can understand and comprehend. And, as a reader, I don't want to work too hard to get the author's point. I find that I put lots of hours into my poetry trying to simplify the language without compromising the message. But, that's just my style. Not better, just different. Good luck with you poetry.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 12:22:00 AM
Boy, you really nailed it. There is a realm where all poetry awaits and through effort we can kind of align our minds with it. When this occurs, the verse comes through and into our minds. I think this place is sometimes called the superconscious realm.
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Joe Flach
Date: 2/20/2014 11:21:00 PM
Mark - I understand. Sometimes what comes out of you is what comes out of you - almost like we are simply the vessel for some other realm in which the poems are hatched. That's often the case with me - the poem hatches in my sleep and all I do is lend my fingers to type them out on the keyboard. I can relate.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/20/2014 10:55:00 PM
This is certainly a great approach and philosophy, Joe. I sort of write my poems as they come to me. Sometimes it's plain, and sometimes its obscure. I don't seem to be able to tamper with it successfully, once it's there. When I try, I mess it up.
Date: 2/20/2014 10:10:00 PM
And good humorous poetry I always adore!!
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 12:20:00 AM
I wish I could summon humor on demand, but I can't. I had some fun with my vampires poem.
Date: 2/20/2014 10:10:00 PM
Mark, everyone likes different things, but Poetry is so subjective. Here is the way I look at it. If a person is taking the time to read my poetry, I always take the time to read theirs. Whether i like their poems or not, I try to find something in it that I like. Personally, I am drawn to very lucid poetry that does not require me to think too hard. That is not to say I like super simplistic poetry either. I love it when people use figurative language: metaphors, personification, things like that. I don't like didactic style much since it does not employ a lot of imagery. I am sure I have read some of yours that I really liked! I love all styles as long as they are well written & clear!
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Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/21/2014 9:02:00 AM
Oh, hon, there is a mission in your words. LOL. Andy, this: "I don't like didactic style much since it does not employ a lot of imagery." See, it's thing like this that interrupt my fiction. ROFL! Seriously, I read that and wanted to write 15 poems just to prove it can be done! What a muse you are! Dammit. LOL. Hugs sent!!!
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 12:28:00 AM
You've said you like some of my poems, so I reckon I'll appreciate that. For some topics, worthy of poetry, there is no answer, and the delight is in the mystery. Cliffhangers too. Would it be all right if I left you trying to imagine a stick with one end?
Date: 2/20/2014 2:12:00 PM
It's pretty hard to write for everyone. I think the best writing is multi-leveled, when you can pull it off. Writing that can be appreciated at a superficial level, but which also has deeper levels, references and metaphors that perhaps only a more mature person or specialist can appreciate. The other factor is the character of the reader and what resonates with them. Hence, the best writing will ideally both tickle your mind and touch your heart. Much poetry comes from conflict and emotional pain, no doubt, (just look at a broad sample of new poems), so it's easier to connect with more poets via an emotional poem, whether it evokes relief or commiseration.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/20/2014 2:31:00 PM
Ah, Roy, this makes a lot of sense and brings clarity to what is otherwise challenging to make sense of when viewed all at once. Thank you for articulating these ideas. You've said more in a view sentences than the common mind does in a volume.
Date: 2/20/2014 11:57:00 AM
You make a lot of sense here. I have gone with "it all depends on who sees your poetry' to get positive responses. I have poetry thrown back to me a "trash", only to send it elsewhere and see it accepted and praised. I feel that poetry soup has its own click of poets who are always praised (although I have received an honorable on occasion). As for me I go with "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Like my stuff or not, I really don't care.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/20/2014 2:36:00 PM
Thanks for your inciteful and worthwhile comments. I am really impatient with the idea that only 2% of the population makes decisions that the remaining 98% follow (from actual marketing research). Things become great because a few people say they are, and they're not always enlightened individuals. So to heck with them, and I'll make up my own mind.
Date: 2/20/2014 11:30:00 AM
Really enjoyed this blog, Mark. I could not agree with you more. I often think and worry about how relatable my work is and whether it can be readily or easily understood. Sometimes I think I write in riddles with a "read between the line" approach and other times even I wonder about my own meanings, like the poem was born in my unconscious or sprang from a dream. Thanks for posting a good blog to ponder :)
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/20/2014 2:38:00 PM
Chan, I love poetry that leaves questions...matters unresolved. Such subtleties prompt the mind to ponder and wonder over the possible outcomes. Remember the "star child" in 2001. No one knew what that meant, but many have wondered. Sometimes I can write with between the lines consequences; however, it is not something I deliberately do because I can't.
Date: 2/20/2014 6:13:00 AM
Well, I lost my grandmother at 14 and my grandfather at 15. They were my "buffers." Life at home was hell. My mother committed suicide when I was 18, shortly after I left home, filling me with years of guilt for becoming independent. My father had his own life and though we loved each other, he was very distant for years. My stepmother died and a year later, at Christmas, my father passed away in my arms. We were both aware we could have been closer, if he had only even tried to phone me as often as I phoned him... after 16 years of infertility, one miscarriage that almost destroyed me, I have a beauty of a girl, nearly five now. So, I don't waste my time intentionally hurting people. Time is precious and short. I do not worry about what people think about me or my writing, however, I do feel hurt when someone I care about, or put out a hand of friendship, hurts me. That being said, most acts of anger and psychological warfare stem from feelings of hurt or disappointment. I get this. Actually, when I find that I have upset someone, I usually feel awful, because I have failed to communicate what I had intended... the message got "bunged up." Mostly, I feel bad about time. If I had more time, I would be able to write to my heart's content, both my fiction and my poetry, spend abundant time with my daughter and husband, keep in contact with all my friends and family, have a well-ordered and tidy home AND read voraciously-- on soup and elsewhere. But I do not. Scientists and mothers know, time is cruel. Time takes. Time has no heart and steals your loved ones right before your eyes. Enjoy writing, Mark. Enjoy the stars. Put both together. But my advice? Leave the intentional zingers to those who understand neither the workings of galaxies or the subtly of verse. Warmest Regards, Just a human being.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 11:08:00 AM
Oh my, Cyndi, I've only gone part way with this. I've got lots of poems written from the heart but never submitted. Wait! I do remember a couple now that were written, printed, destroyed and erased. I felt purged!
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Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/21/2014 9:08:00 AM
I challenge you, sir, to do the following. Write a poem, put your heart into it. Do not save the poem. Print it out. Erase the file. THEN BURN THE PRINTED PAGE. Like a Tibetan mandala. The beauty of this practice steals my breath. Do you know what I mean?
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Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/21/2014 9:06:00 AM
Thanks, Mark!! Hey, I always think of Dickenson, what is the true 'calling' of the writer, to release the words for self, the release of spirit through the creative process, or to be read and thereby (hopefully) understood? Ah, there is a question! Smiles from Cyndi.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 1:01:00 AM
Without readers, the verses would simply swirl endlessly around in my brain, driving me crazy because there would be no release.
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Mark Peterson
Date: 2/21/2014 12:59:00 AM
Cyndi, what sadness and delight in your words. Your experiences have given you poetry and have released your pleasing image from its prison of stone. I'll try to do as you say.
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Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/20/2014 6:25:00 AM
PS-- I just returned a book to the Library about crafting perfect sentences. This line was in it, "As a writer get used to this one fact. The reader is king. The writer serves him."

My Past Blog Posts

Kill or be Killed
Date Posted: 6/28/2014 9:03:00 PM
Dealing with Rejection
Date Posted: 2/20/2014 2:18:00 AM
Precious Friends
Date Posted: 2/7/2014 1:06:00 PM
The Secret Life of Poets
Date Posted: 2/6/2014 8:13:00 PM

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