BY MORGAN BROWN
“Revise and resubmit.”
We say this often at our meetings, when an art piece needs only minor tweaks, when a poem is just a few concrete images or capital letters away from acceptance. Sometimes the artists heed this call, and the poem reappears one or two semesters later with changes, whether slight or major. But, more often, the poems or art pieces submitted never return.
I understand why. Want to hear a secret? I hated Opus for most of my time at Hope. Why? Because I was awful at taking constructive criticism.
When I went to a few Opus meetings freshman year, not only were all the others upperclassmen, but they were smart upperclassmen. They analyzed every line of poetry under a microscope, pointing out details of syntax and word choice that I never would have considered. There is an element of frustration to receiving a rejection letter from the Opus account, full of notes relaying your errors. To me, it didn’t just feel like a rejection. It felt like a personal blow. How dare you attack my poetry? I wrote it like that for a reason. Who are you to tell me it could be better?
It wasn’t until sophomore year, after having gone through a creative writing workshop and developing a self-realization of the flaws in my own work, that I realized the editors of Opus didn’t give me this feedback to offend me but to help me.
A rejected poem doesn’t mean you’re not talented. In fact, I would argue that poems can’t exist without talent. Poems rely so much on surprising images and diction that they require a unique voice. Every poem is valid. The message you’re attempting to convey is important, and by giving you constructive criticism, we want to help you get that message across in the most effective way possible. The same applies to art and prose. We recognize how talented the students of Hope are, and we want to be part of the journey to becoming the best you can be. A rejected poem is never a “no,” only a “revise and resubmit.”
If you, like me, have received the call to revise and resubmit before or are worried about your work being critiqued, I would make a few suggestions:
- Come to our meetings!
Fun fact: Opus meetings are open to the entire student body. In these meetings, we (the Opus staff and any students who join us) read each poem aloud, then point out what we like and what we feel could be improved. Each student, regardless of whether you’re on staff, gets to vote yes or no on each piece. We send out packets of poetry before the meetings each week, so if you see your poem, come to that meeting! Listening to the editors talk about your piece in context is much more personal, and being part of the discussion gives you the opportunity to give your own opinion. Poetry and art are subjective, meaning that everyone may have a different view of a piece, so your insight is important!
- Ask for our notes on your piece.
While we discuss each piece at meetings, one of our editors takes detailed notes of its praises and critiques. If you’d like rationale for why your piece didn’t make it in the book, please reach out to us (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)! We’d love to talk with you about your piece in more detail and give you any suggestions we can.
- Come to our workshop night.
In a normal, covid-free semester, Opus holds workshop nights before our submission deadline. Hopefully, these workshop nights will be reinstated in the fall, giving you a chance not only to meet the Opus staff but to get early insight into possible improvements for your piece. This way you have the opportunity to revise before submitting, giving your piece a greater chance of getting in the book.
Ultimately we want your work to be the best it can be. So, it bears repeating, if your poem doesn’t make it in the first time, revise and resubmit!