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Where The Bee Sucks, There Suck I

It’s submission season again here at KR, and the work is rolling in. Since our site went live on Monday night, we’ve received over 400 submissions. If last year is any guide, that’s about seven percent of the total submissions that we’ll receive before our reading period closes on January 15, and, coincidentally, that’s also about the total number of pieces that we’ll be able to accept in the end from that total pool of more than 6,000 submissions to publish in the magazine or in KROnline. We wish we could publish more. By launching KROnline, we’ve doubled the number of poems, stories and essays we can publish, but that still leaves our acceptance rate well below 10% of the total submissions we receive. That’s the hard reality of working for KR, but it also suggests just how much terrific writing is going on out there.

Reading submissions for any literary magazine is like sitting down at a feast without a menu. In the old days, we waded through boxes of manuscripts piled high on the office floors. Now, it’s more like wandering into a vast field of flowers, from which your job is to pluck a single bouquet. Or, as in Ariel’s song, to suck the honey and leave most of the blooms to fade.

So do editors suck? Yeah, we suck.

At the start of every reading season, I like to remind myself of a simple truth: history proves that editors are idiots. We’re idiots because we miss the revelation more often than we see it. Actually, being aware of your own idiocy is part of any good editor’s job. We’re supposed to recognize what’s great, even though no one can define greatness in a way that doesn’t exclude work that challenges those expectations. Often, an editor’s job is to see what’s coming over the horizon before it arrives, the first to salute that rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born. But we’re also priests of the old revelation, summoning our readers to see the daily miracles of creation. Despite what the dramatic narratives of literary history suggest, it ain’t all revolution. Sometimes a great poem is just a great poem.

So how do you keep your mind open enough to recognize great work in all its strange guises? The fact is that we come to this feast unprepared, like blind men hoping to be made to see. Show me, I want to say to all of you out there writing. Send me something that opens my eyes. We want to be humbled. We want to be amazed.

So don’t worry about the numbers. Just write it. Submit it. Make us see.

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