My Experience with The Portland Review

This is a story of a bizarre submission experience with The Portland Review.

On February 9, 2011, I submitted five poems to The Portland Review, which is a fine journal that I admire. They put out poems that I enjoy. I simultaneously submitted these poems to other journals, too. On April 23, one of those poems was accepted elsewhere, so I withdrew it from consideration at The Portland Review, and there were no problems.

On May 19, I received the following acceptance email from The Portland Review.

May 19 Portland Review acceptance email

Woo hoo! I’ve always wanted to be in this journal, and finally I will be. However, which poem did they accept? It doesn’t say. Might they have accepted more. I hope so. But I needed to find out, so I wrote them back asking which poem or poems were accepted.

May 20 first reply to Portland Review

They replied promptly, within four minutes, with this email.

May 20 second Portland Review acceptance email

Oh, man they took all of the four remaining poems. I was so happy because I had just begun this long series of poems about the Paleolithic artists who painted all those paintings in the caves in France and Spain and elsewhere. Actually, the poems are broadening out to the whole Paleolithic area and era. So I even have poems about the invention of the needle and the doll and other things.

Anyway, these four poems were accepted by The Portland Review. One of them, “Paleolithic Person Explains Cave Art and the Apocalypse,” was for a friend who passed away recently. In fact, Steve Noble, the friend who is no longer with us, helped me write that poem. I wrote that poem a couple of months after he passed, and he and I weirdly communicated with each other. I asked him questions, and he pointed me in the right direction, and I, we, wrote this terrific poem. So yay. Happy me. And happy Steve, who will be immortalized as I dedicated the poem to him. Thank you Portland Review. I then responded, as shown here:

May 20 second acceptance replyAll’s good in the world! . . . until July 18.

On July 18, I received this email:

July 18 Portland Review rejection letter

What? Hunh? Hey, you guys already accepted these poems. What’s this email about? Oh man. What’s going on?  So I responded as soon as I read the email, which was about an hour after Sam Newson, the poetry editor, sent the rejection.

July 18 rejection response top part

And then I documented our email exchange, which you just saw, and I concluded the email like this:

July 18 rejection response bottom part

Man, I had to write a lot of withdraw letters and emails. That took up some time and postage. Now, if these poems are truly rejected, I can’t send these poems to those magazines from which I withdrew them. The editors at those journals will be majorly confused and it will make me look silly. Now, my poems have less places to find a home, share their beauty, and change people’s lives.

Two days later there is no response. Last time they responded within the same day, within four minutes. Man, what’s going on? I’m kinda getting pissed here. So I wrote them again.

July 20 rejection response

(And below my salutation is the second acceptance email, where Sam lists all the poems they are going to use.)

I’m being professional here. Am I not? They certainly aren’t by rejecting what they accepted and not responding. Of course this non-response continues. I wrote them again the next day. This time to both the editor and Sam Newson.

July 21 rejection response

(Below is the second acceptance email listing the poems that were accepted.)

Ok. So that’s enough emails for now. Surely, someone has to respond.

Now, it’s Tuesday, July 26. It’s been a full week and a full day, and no one has responded. This is very unprofessional of Sam Newson and The Portland Review. It’s unethical, too, to accept poems and then reject them.

Further, what I am supposed to do with these poems. Are you going to use them in an upcoming issue or not? I need to know so I’ll know what to do with the poems. I mean, if you are not going to use them, let me know so I can send them back out into the world so they can find a home.

As an editor, I know what to do – You accept the poems you once accepted, and you respond.

It’s obvious they are avoiding me, and that’s even worse than accepting and rejecting the same poems. What’s going on over there, Portland Review? Respond to me. I’m getting pissed off right now. You are holding my poems hostage. Should I contact CLMP? Where’s Foetry.com when you need them? Where’s the professionalism? (At the same time, I hope everyone is okay over there, and that nothing went detrimentally wrong.)

You know, I could almost understand this if there was a change in editors. Well, not really. Re: Paris Review. (By the way, Paris Review, you’re on notice.)

In the end, I just hope this is just a mistake like the time a journal accepted my poems, printed them in their journal, sent me two contributor copies, and, then, a few months later rejected those same poems. Now that was funny. I hope this ends in an equally funny manner. Until then . . .

 Portland Review, you’re on notice!//

6 Responses to “My Experience with The Portland Review”

  1. July 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    wow. I wonder if this is a case of being away from the desk for a week or two? This editor may come back to the office in a few days and feel like a douche. OR he is avoiding answering and feels like a douche. Either way, he probably feels silly. It is pretty unorganized and Portland Review takes so long to respond as it is. I do know that they recently went through some changes in the editing team, so there could be something there with that, but still. Kind of ridiculous!

    • July 27, 2011 at 10:49 am

      Except it’s the same editor throughout, and I responded within a hour of the rejection. And last time he responded within 4 minutes. And I responded to the main editor, too. So then all of the editors have to be gone, and there are like four of them.

  2. July 30, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    On July 30th, Sam Newson finally responded. Here’s what he said:

    Hey Tom,

    Sorry about the delay on my response. What happened is that our […] budget [for] the last issue got scrapped. We would still love to publish your pieces, but currently it would only be for online publication. If you are alright with this than we would be more than happy to do so because your poems don’t seem to depreciate over time.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Sam Newson
    Poetry Editor

    So it was a change in editors. How odd, but it does explain quite a bit.

    I am very glad Sam responded, and the kind words he said about the poems. Thanks, Sam.

  3. January 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Today is January 11, 2013, (one year and eight months after this began) and I received the newest issue of The Portland Review with my poems in them. My poems that were rejected by them, as you can see from the above correspondence and the last comment. I have since had these poems published or accepted elsewhere. When I inform those journals of the situation, I sure hope they understand that I’m not being unethical but The Portland Review is. Thanks to The Portland Review I am in a very bad spot, and I hope the poetry publishing world understands this and does start banning me or black listing me or considering me unethical in my publishing practices. I’m very bothered by all of this and very inconvenienced.

  4. January 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    The Portland Review has made a formal apology to all its writers. In part: “Over the past few months, we’ve been going through a long and messy transition. We have an entirely new editorial staff, and we’re enthused to have the opportunity to revitalize the Portland Review. I’d like to apologize to our faithful readers and the talented writers who submit their work to the Portland Review for the shortcomings many of you have experienced recently. We arrived to a significant backlog of submissions, and we want to be sure each writer and artist receives the attention they deserve.” You can read the whole apology here: http://portlandreview.org/?p=200

    I’d also like to thank Sugar House Review and The James Dickey (who accepted two of my poems) and Pebble Lake Review (who published one of my poems) for being so understanding in this situation. I still await to hear back from Silk Road (who published another of the poems). I hope they are equally as understanding.

    At least my poems found a home and no one harboring anything negative against me.

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