William James

working class poetry // punk rock performance

Jan. 3, 2016 // release, renew

Well, I did it...if you've been following along with my endeavors over the past year, you'll have noticed that late December, I squeaked into rejection #100 - the culmination of a project I started on 1/1/15...I set out to have my work regarded as insufficient for publication 100 different times, and BOY HOWDY DID I EVER GET THERE. It was a grueling process...I learned a lot, about the submission process, about my poems, about myself. Dedicating your literary year to racking up that many rejections is not for the faint of heart (then again, nothing about the literary world seems to be) but it's one I absolutely recommend to anyone who's at the "ready to send my poems out to the world but sorta kinda scared to do so" stage in their career. In the next few weeks, I'm gonna be writing an actual recap/essay for Drunk In A Midnight Choir, so be on the lookout for that. 

I've taken a bit of a pause from poetry as of late. It's been a necessary hiatus, so that in the grand scheme of things, I can maintain my love for this art. I went from 100mph to zero in a week - in fact, tonight, I just sent out my first submission in over a month. In December, instead of poems, I took a long train ride to Chicago with my partner; instead of reading poems, I read several issues of Cometbus. I haven't written a poem since October...that, of course, will change, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to step back a while and let your passion rebuild.

Recently, I had the chance to see Michael Lee-Wolf feature at my home venue. Dude's got POEMS, y'all. And you know what I did? I sat, and I listened. I didn't think "what's this guy doing that I'm not? how can I be that successful? WHAT TRICKS CAN I TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?!?!?" I just...listened. And the love came back. I remembered, once more, why the fuck I do this. It isn't the rejection letters, it isn't the eventual acceptances, it isn't the publishing contract, or the poetry slam victories...it's the feeling that somewhere out there in this chasm of a universe, someone exists who understands & relates to my stories, the same way as I have to so many others throughout my life. It's knowing that somewhere out there, someone gives a fuck. Because someone needs you to have given a fuck.

What did I learn from getting rejected 100 times in a year? I learned this: write a good poem. Write a poem that only you can write. That NO OTHER MOTHERFUCKER ON THIS EARTH could write the way that you write it. Write. Good. Poems. The rest will follow, or it won't, but you'll have written some good goddamn poems, and honestly? That shit really IS its own reward.

I've got a poem in the new issue of Really System here. Poems forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry, Sundog Lit, and Half Mystic. Maybe some more later. The work goes on, because it has to. Because I have to. And so, I will.


Dec. 29, 2015 (2)

POETRY REJECTION #100/100 - Zymbol

Dear William James, 

Thank you for your submission to Zymbol. Although we will not be publishing your work at this time and are sorry to disappoint you, please be assured that your submission was considered carefully. Our reasons for not accepting particular submissions are varied and often have more to do with the shape of our recent acquisitions and upcoming issues than with the quality of work we receive. Thank you again for the opportunity to consider your work, and we regret any delay in our response to you. We hope you'll continue to read and submit to Zymbol. 

Anne James, Editor-in-Chief

(rejection streak: 20)

Dec. 29, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #99/100: Sixth Finch



Thanks for submitting to Sixth Finch--we really appreciate you sharing your work with us. While it wasn't a fit this time, we hope you'll keep us in mind in the future; we'll begin reading submissions for our spring issue in a few weeks. 


Sixth Finch

 (rejection streak: 19)

Dec. 17, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #98/100: Sharkpack Poetry Review

Dear William James, 

Thank you for sending us "Five Poems"—we're sorry we aren't able to find a place for it in the SPR ANNUAL. 

Our assistant editor found quite a bit to comment on here, Will: 'This is a poet who is beckoned by the Duende, and should he keep reading, keep writing, keep following that dark-winged moth . . . some majestic bird of prey will rise from it.' She also suggested that too many of the poems may 'draw substance' from pain, limiting the language to that medium's (common) phraseology. It's a fair point—that one must draw from pain at its source, which is always churning, changing color, never resigned to a burnt-out well. We look forward to hearing from you again. 

Our staff is humbled by the chance to read and reflect on your poetry. Please consider submitting again during our next reading period. 

Joseph Spece 

SHARKPACK Poetry Review

(rejection streak: 18)

Dec. 11, 2015


Dear William James: 

Thanks for sending us your work. We didn't feel it was right for BOAAT. Please don't take this personal--poetry is subjective. This packet you sent could very well have a Pushcart poem in it somewhere. Keep writing. Keep submitting. 

The Poetry Editors of BOAAT 


 (Rejection streak: 17) 

Dec. 7, 2015 - rebel hearts & other news

I recently learned that my first book rebel hearts & restless ghosts has experienced some delays on the print end - the Timber Mouse crew sent in a proof to the printer, and we found some minor errors; unfortunately, we won't be able to get them fixed until next week, which sadly means that the anticipated release date of Dec. 18th won't likely be happening. I suppose it's a plus in a way, in that it means I won't be foolishly trying to schedule a book release party on the same night that the new Star Wars comes out. (By the way, who's trying to get their Episode VII on? I was skeptical at first, but the trailers look so good!)

SInce the print date for rh&rg has been pushed back, I've decided to extend the preorder sale through the end of this month. As long as the year is still 2015, you can preorder a signed copy of the book for only $12 - $3 off the cover price - PLUS FREE SHIPPING! Also, all preorders received by 12/31 will be entered into a drawing to win a vinyl copy of the album "Witness" by Modern Life Is War, from my own personal collection. You can preorder the book HERE if you're so inclined. If you've already ordered your copy, maybe you could help spread the word a bit? Pass along the link to a friend, someone you think might dig the work?

Recently the goodly folks at Pankhearst gave me the opportunity to answer the question "Who the fuck is William James?" as well as a few other inquisitions. I swore quite a bit, and came off like a somewhat loveable curmudgeon (I hope) & you can read the whole thing over yonder at THIS LINK

Mostly on this blog, I just repost my rejection letters, but a few poems of mine have found their way onto the internet recently as well. Here's a round-up of some places you can read some newer poems of mine:

Of course, you can always click HERE for a full, mostly-complete list of places my poems have made an appearance this year.

There'll be a proper release show for rebel hearts & restless ghosts in the near future. I'm not gonna schedule it until I have copies of the book in my hands, but I promise it'll be a party. Some friends, both old & new, have already promised to be a part of it...no spoilers yet, but keep yr ears & eyes peeled...


Dec. 4, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #96/100: Caravel Literary Arts

Dear William James, 

Thank you for sending us "Six poems". We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us. We encourage you to submit again in the future. 

Thanks again. Best of luck with this. 

Eric Allen Yankee
Caravel Literary Arts Journal

(rejection streak: 15)

Nov. 24, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #95/100: Barrelhouse

Dear William, 

Thanks for letting us read your work. Unfortunately, we've decided this batch is not right for us. We wish you the best of luck in your continued writing. 


Team Barrelhouse

(Rejection streak since last acceptance: 14)

Nov. 23, 2015 (2)

POETRY REJECTION #94/100: The Mackinac


Dear William James, 

Thank you for submitting your work to The Mackinac. 

We regret that we are unable to accept it for publication. We wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere. 


The Mackinac 

(rejection streak since last acceptance: 1)


Nov. 23, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #93/100: Beloit Poetry Journal

Dear William James:

Your manuscript has received a careful reading, but we have decided against holding it for our second round of deliberations. Thank you, though, for giving the BPJ the opportunity to consider it. Glad to have seen, in particular, "Ephemera." All the best, RCFlynn, co-editor

 (rejection streak since last acceptance: 12)

Nov. 21, 2015 (2)

POETRY REJECTION #92/100: Muzzle Magazine

Dear William James, 

Thank you very much for submitting to MUZZLE. We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have garnered thus far. Unfortunately, we will not be using this submission. Please keep in mind that we are only able to accept a small percentage of poetry submissions. Best of luck placing your work elsewhere. 

Stevie Edwards 

Muzzle Magazine 

 (Rejections since last acceptance: 11) 

Nov. 21, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #91/100: Cutbank Literary Journal

Dear William James, 

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your work. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit Cutbank's needs at this time. We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. 


Billy Wallace 
Cutbank Literary Journal

(Rejections since last acceptance: 10) 

Nov. 19, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #90/100: Vending Machine Press

Dear William James, 

Hi. Thank you for sending me your work. I read your poems carefully a few times over. I think you are a good poet although I am going to have to pass on this particular batch of poems. 

Michael Lafontaine 

Vending Machine Press

(rejections since last acceptance: 9) 

Nov. 11, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #89/100: Lunch Ticket

Dear William, 

Lunch Ticket receives a number of excellent submissions each reading period, and while yours is one of them, it was not chosen for the upcoming issue. This is not a reflection on your work or on your worth as a writer. Our direction for the next issue of Lunch Ticket was simply different than the vision of your work. 

Rejections are never easy—for you the writer, or for us, the editors. But as we both know, they are part of being a writer. We are sorry that we weren't the right market for three poems, but we know that there is another market waiting for you, and to them, this piece is exactly perfect. We hope you know that this letter doesn't mean "no forever", and we hope you will submit to Lunch Ticket again. 

Best of luck, and take good care, 

The Editors of Lunch Ticket 

  (rejection streak since last acceptance: 8)

Nov. 4, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #88/100: Pine Hills Review


Dear William, 

Thank you for sending us your work. We appreciate you showing interest and faith in our new publication by sending your work to us. After careful consideration, we've decided it isn’t right for us. We wish you luck placing it elsewhere. 

Pine Hills Review 

 (rejection streak since last acceptance: 7)

Oct. 28, 2015 (2)

POETRY REJECTION #86/100: Timber Journal

Dear William, 

Thank you for sending us "Six poems (William James)." We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not what we are looking for at this time. 

Thanks again. Best of luck. 

Ansley Clark

(rejection streak since last acceptance: 5)

Oct. 28, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #85/100: Columbia

Dear William James, 

Thank you for sending us "Five poems (William James)". We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we must pass at this time. 

Thanks again. Best of luck placing your work elsewhere. 

Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art

(rejection streak since last acceptance: 4)

Oct. 25, 2015

POETRY REJECTION #84/100: Hot Metal Bridge


Dear William James, 

Thank you for your submission to Hot Metal Bridge. After careful reading we have decided not to accept it for publication. Best of luck placing it elsewhere. 

The Poetry Editors 
Hot Metal Bridge

(Rejection streak since last acceptance: 3) 

Oct. 24, 2015 (2/2)

POETRY REJECTION #83/100: Crab Fat Magazine


Dear William James, 

Thank you for sending "Four deconstructions - William James". We appreciate the chance to review it, but unfortunately, it's not a good fit for us. Best of luck with this in the future. 

Crab Fat Magazine Staff 

(Rejection streak since last acceptance: 2) 


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