Revoking Poetic License

We've all taken liberties with writing rules and, if one isn't writing to a specific form, poets have some of the most generous "writing rules" around.  There doesn't have to be rhyme, punctuation, uniformity, or anything else in free verse.  Yes, there is sound to consider (and meaning) but these things can be more preference-based than concrete.

And yet, some editors/educators/publishers act as though their word is law.  They know.  We don't.  Granted, being open to advice is necessary and a great many people know more than we do.  But, no one admits when giving us advice it's preferential, not law.

It frustrates me.
I've gotten rejected because an editor thought I made a silly wording mistake in my poem.  It wasn't an error.  It was a specific choice with a certain meaning.  "Fixing my mistake" would have meant giving a section the opposite intended meaning.  I explained why I used the word I did (politely) and the poem was rejected.  Her right.  Maybe, once the wording changed, she didn't like it anymore.  Or perhaps she just wasn't happy I didn't do as she asked.

I have another poem making the rounds with the first line:
I scent your fear on the wind, like a tiger
It is intentional, "scent" in place of "smell".  I have reasons.  I have liberties.  We'll just see how long it takes for someone to argue it away.  But, in order for me to alter it, the reasoning better be darn good.

And yes, my poetic license is up-to-date!

Have you ever had someone tell you you're wrong over a deliberate choice (with your writing)?  Did you ever agree to alterations?  If so, what swayed you?


  1. Can't see anything that should require recourse to poetic licence in that line. Scent is a verb according to the dictionaries I refer to, don't understand why anyone should object to that usage. Good luck with the submission, Jennifer.

    I have been lucky generally, whatever got accepted got accepted in its entirety. And whatever got rejected was rejected without feedback, so I don't know why - could very well be because it didn't fit their ideas of grammar/word usage/language rules. It's my prerogative to write the way I want, it's the editor's prerogative to accept/reject. Publishing happens only when the writer finds a like-minded editor who gets the writing, and is willing to see beyond piffling 'mistakes.'

    1. I've had revisions, many I didn't mind.
      One editor had me cut out three whole stanzas, only leaving the ending four lines. It changed the tone, but not much else, surprisingly.

  2. That's a totally legit use of the word "scent" and if a poetry editor doesn't know that, I question that career choice.

    I've had some back and forth with my editor a few times, but she's very reasonable and doesn't try to force a change when I can explain my choice.

    1. Sounds like you've been fairly fortunate with editors. Sometimes, regardless of my explanation, an editor will pitch my work when I don't acquiesce to every change. Maybe poetry is more finicky than other things.