Glass Ceilings

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by John Siddique

Well here we are at that time of the year again, soon we’ll be resolving to try and write a bit more each week, or maybe even to read some poetry every now and then. We’ll make our resolutions and dig out that old copy of The Writer’s Handbook, re-read how to send our poetry off into the big bad world, then flip to the publishers and poetry magazine addresses pages… and maybe this year we will do it.

What is it that we want from this burgeoning activity? Will this set of poems bring us ‘the book deal’, will that book deal bring us the fame we crave? We can already see ourselves talking intelligently on couch of the BBC review show. We’ll show them, we won’t end up smug and dancing to their tune.

Thoughts easily run away with us, well they do with me. Whatever happens there are always two lingering shadow thoughts in mind when gearing up to put work out there. Those two dark thoughts are like the ghosts of poetry submissions past and present: they are the perceived problems of the gatekeeper and the glass ceiling. The gatekeeper is a poetry editor somewhere who is going to look at our work and deem it worthy or not, and the glass ceiling is the thought that there is no way ‘such and such’ are going to let someone like me in. Then the counter-thought comes, ‘I’ll push my way in, break though that glass ceiling.’

The thing about breaking through glass ceilings is that it is the stupidest way to enter a room imaginable. You smash through and come up through the floor, your head all bloody and dazed from the effort, when you could have spent time finding out where the stairs or the elevator are and made a lovely entrance. But we don’t do that, we imagine the gatekeeper sitting at a huge desk wearing a Jeremy Rhyming Slang mask, gleefully writing our name on a rejection-slip without even unfolding the contents of the envelope. True we are going to come across some people who set themselves up as gatekeepers for only their own gain or to simply further their name, this is unfortunately very true in many areas of life, and a bit too true in poetry sometimes. So instead of finding our way though in a clear and passionate way, maybe finding out that editor’s artistic ideology and taste, and sending appropriate work out. We succumb instead to the temptation to blog all our poems with minimal editing, or stick them on Facebook, and then we terrify our ‘friends’ into saying how good they are. After all, no one can criticise our sequence of 27 poems about our dead dog, that’s why we wrote them, ahem.

Perhaps this time though the cycle won’t repeat, perhaps we will read a bit more, push our writing to be great by accepting the risk of failure, and maybe this year we’ll post out our batches of poems and writings after finding out that underneath the Hunt mask we’ve been projecting onto our artistic fears, there is a person there who actually loves poetry and would dearly love to read something amazing by us should it be in the range of things they enjoy. This New Year I’m taking the elevator, are you coming?

Photo credit: Caitlin Childs

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