Editing this magazine is a great job! I get to process material that encourages people to love the outdoors and learn more about it. It's a job I can feel good about almost all the time.
If there is a downside, it is that I have to say "No" to so many people. When someone wants to write about elephants, I have to say, "No." Outhouses? "No." When people ask me if they can put their advertisements in the Conservationist, I say "No." When they wonder if I'll be bringing donuts to the editorial meeting, I also respond, "No!"
The "No" I say most often is when I tell people I can't publish their poems. Nature inspires poetry. Rippling brooks, doe eyes, changing leaf colors and flitting, colorful birds elicit high sentiments in those who love the outdoors, and they often express those sentiments in verse. Very few days go by that don't include at least one packet of poems crossing my desk.
I like poetry. It's pithy, like wood; delicate, like snowflakes; and rhythmic, like waves lapping a shoreline.
I read all the poems readers submit, and I think that many of them are absolutely great, but I send them back anyway.
I usually write a personal note and include the following statement: "While I enjoyed your poems, we have a strict policy against publishing poetry in the Conservationist. The policy was made because we don't feel competent to judge which of the many poems sent to us are of a high enough quality to include in the magazine."
Actually, I used to feel pretty confident in my ability to judge poetry. That was when I was writing it myself and my brain was loaded with ethereal notions.
However, mean-spirited and hebetudinous editors wounded my muse so severely that I finally gave up writing verse. Their form-letter rejection notices had the effect of denying generations the pleasures of a long series of lyric lodestones like the following:
In the stream the angler had dangled
Hooks, bait and lures new-fangled.
He fished resolutely,
Artfully and cutely,
But with a trout he ne'er once tangled.
I never understood why this poem hasn't become a classic. After all, it has all the important components of poesy, including rhyming words at the end of each line, capital letters at the beginning of each line and, as a bonus, an archaic contraction, "ne'er," like you find in all the great poems.
Although my creation never made it into black and white, I don't feel I wrote it in vain. For years, I've recited the poem at nearly every party I've attended, and scarcely a fishing trip goes by without an appropriate moment for repeating it. I believe it is well received.
For my encore, I recite a poem that has been pooh-poohed by a succession of editors, all of whom completely ignored the fact that I had found not just one, but two rhymes for "crankbaits."
Said a man who fished only crankbaits,
"I've angled myself into dank straits,
Squandering my earnings
On new lure yearnings,"
Then he scurried to find low bank rates.
Being a scarred poet, I can sympathize with all the poets to whom I have to say "No." I only hope that they can come to accept-as I have-that poetry is a very personal thing. As long as you like what you've written, it is the best there is.
I'd hoped that by including a little poetry in the magazine, I might open the floodgates to more magazines, including this one, publishing poetry. But when I showed the final page proof of this editorial to my bosses, they said, "No!" to any more poetry.
I've never seen them so resolute.
Tom Cwynar, Editor