This has been a rough couple of weeks for rejection letters--I have received rejection letters from two chapbook contests (Sixth Finch and Black Lawrence Press), and I received rejection letters from Kenyon Review and The Adroit Journal, as well as from Sierra Nevada Review and GASHER.
The Adroit Journal is always on Duotrope's list of 25 most difficult markets to crack, but they had (like Kenyon) had my work for a long enough period that I was getting a little hopeful about it.
Regardless of the rejection, the editor did send a personal note, saying that they most enjoyed my poem "Sacrifice" out of what I'd sent to them. This meant a great deal to me, as I'll explain further.
While working on my MFA at Chatham in 2006 or so, I wrote a poem about abortion and titled it "Sacrifice." While I write often about facets of relationships, abortion is a controversial topic, and I'd never really felt comfortable sending this poem out as part of a submission. Not because I was ashamed of the poem or the topic, but it just never seemed to fit with my other work.
Full disclosure/back story: about 15 years after dating a man, we briefly connected via Facebook or LinkedIn--just to say hello. We were kids when we dated; I was fresh out of college and new to Eugene, Oregon, and he was a college junior at UO. I did not date him exclusively, but he was one of my favorites. When we reconnected, he sent me an unsolicited email attachment of a large, high-resolution photo of a toddler boy. His young son.
When we dated, I had an abortion. While I was not ready at all to be a parent, he did push for the decision we made. We still dated for a while after the drama and the procedure, but we started to drift apart. I think I was hoping he and I would eventually end up together, but he was largely unwilling make a commitment. Other men drifted in and out of my social life, and we stayed friendly. I eventually moved back home to West Virginia, and we did not stay in touch.
I wrote that poem because I just remember feeling like someone slapped me in the face when he sent that photo of his son. I wasn't angry or sad that we didn't end up together, but my first thought was that had I not agreed to the abortion, he wouldn't have that same life. (Neither would I, but at that moment, I wasn't focused on that view of the truth.)
It was a hateful thought, and I didn't (and still don't) wish him any ill. I just thought it spoke to how thoughtless he was when I knew him, and how thoughtless he still was, 15 years later.
I don't think "Sacrifice" was ever angry or hateful, but it was difficult to feel comfortable with that poem. In my two and a half years at Chatham, only two or three poems were ever almost too emotional for me to discuss in workshop. This was one of them.