I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection

In 1981, when Paul Devlin was in high school applying for a university place, he received a rejection letter from Harvard which, to his great satisfaction, contained a grammatical error. Never one to miss an opportunity, Paul quickly decided that he must reject Harvard’s rejection letter for that very reason, by letter—a process so therapeutic that Paul then decided to respond to all subsequent rejections, of which there were a few, with the following form letter. It became so popular that in May of 1981 it was reprinted in the New York Times


Office of Admissions

Dear Sir/Madam:

Having now reviewed the many rejection letters received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.

This year, I applied to a great number of fine colleges and universities and, of course, received many rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is very limited. It is for that reason that I was forced to reject the rejection letters of many qualified institutions. 

This was not an easy task. Each rejection was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account, such as the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, cost and social atmosphere.

I am certain that most of the colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made, but I hope they were few in number.

I am aware of the disappointment this decision may bring, for these were not easy judgements. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the importance to you of this decision. I wish it were possible to cite specific reasons for each of the determinations I have made but, frankly, it is not. 

It was even necessary for me to reject some letters that were clearly qualified as rejections. This is surely my loss. 

I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject me, and, although it may seem inappropriate to you at this time, let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a highly successful academic year.

See you all in the fall!

Sincerely,

Paul Devlin

Applicant at Large

Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong

After Frank O’Hara / After Roger Reeves

Ocean, don’t be afraid. 
The end of the road is so far ahead 
it is already behind us. 
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father 
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine 
won’t remember its wings 
no matter how many times our knees 
kiss the pavement. Ocean, 
are you listening? The most beautiful part 
of your body is wherever 
your mother’s shadow falls. 
Here’s the house with childhood 
whittled down to a single red tripwire. 
Don’t worry. Just call it horizon 
& you’ll never reach it. 
Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not 
a lifeboat. Here’s the man 
whose arms are wide enough to gather 
your leaving. & here the moment, 
just after the lights go out, when you can still see 
the faint torch between his legs. 
How you use it again & again 
to find your own hands. 
You asked for a second chance 
& are given a mouth to empty into. 
Don’t be afraid, the gunfire 
is only the sound of people 
trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean, 
get up. The most beautiful part of your body 
is where it’s headed. & remember, 
loneliness is still time spent 
with the world. Here’s 
the room with everyone in it. 
Your dead friends passing 
through you like wind through a wind 
chime. Here’s a desk 
with the gimp leg & a brick 
to make it last. Yes, here’s a room 
so warm & blood-close, 
I swear, you will wake— 
& mistake these walls 
for skin.

– Ocean Vuong

I Don’t Want To Live a Small Life

I don’t want to live a small life. Open your eyes,
open your hands. I have just come
from the berry fields, the sun

kissing me with its golden mouth all the way
(open your hands) and the wind-winged clouds
following along thinking perhaps I might

feed them, but no I carry these heart-shapes
only to you. Look how many small
but so sweet and maybe the last gift

I will bring to anyone in this
world of hope and risk, so do
Look at me. Open your life, open your hands.

– Mary Oliver

I’m going to mope about you and then I’m going to have a bath and I’m going to mope about you in the bath.

July 17, 1936

Caitlin darling darling, I caught lots of buses and went to sleep in them and ate wine gums in the train and got here awfully late in a sort of thunder storm. This morning I can’t do anything but sit with my headache and my liver in a higgledy piggledy room looking out on the rain, and now I’m trying to keep my hand steady to write a neat letter to you that isn’t all miserable because I’m not with you in Laugharne or in London or in Ringwood or whatever daft place you’re in without me. I dreamed all sorts of funny dreams in my big respectable feather bed – which is much much better than a battlement bed full of spiders – dreams with you in them all the time, and terrible ticking clocks, and vampires, and ladies with long arms putting out the light, and intimate black dogs just sitting on us.

I love you Caitlin. I love you more than anybody in the world. And yesterday – though it may be lots of yesterdays ago to you when this wobbly letter reaches you – was the best day in the world, in spite of dogs, and Augustus woofing, and being miserable because it had to stop. I love you for millions and millions of things, clocks and vampires and dirty nails and squiggly paintings and lovely hair and being dizzy and falling dreams. I want you to be with me; you can have all the spaces between the houses, and I can have a room with no windows; we’ll make a halfway house; you can teach me to walk in the air and I’ll teach you to make nice noises on the piano without any music; we’ll have a bed in a bar, as we said we would, and we shan’t have any money at all and we’ll live on other people’s, which they won’t like a bit.

The room’s full of they now, but I don’t care, I don’t care for anybody. I want to be with you because I love you. I don’t know what I love you means, except that I do. [words deleted] (I crossed that out. It was, ‘In 21 messy years’, but I don’t know what I was going to say). Write to me soon, very very soon, and tell me you really mean the things you said about you loving me too; if you don’t I shall cut my throat or go to the pictures.

I’m here in a nest of schoolmasters and vicars, majors, lawyers, doctors, maiden aunts; and you’re lord knows where, in the country, miles and miles from me, painting barmy ivy. Now I’m sad, I’m sad as hell, and I’ll have to go to a pub by myself & sit in the corner and mope. I’m going to mope about you and then I’m going to have a bath and I’m going to mope about you in the bath. Damn all this anyway; I only want to tell you all the time and over & over again that I love you and that I’m sad because you’ve gone away and that I’m not going to lose you and that I’m going to see you soon and that I want us to get married once we can and that you said yes you wanted to too. And write to me when you get this, or before you do, only write and tell me all there is to tell me. And I’ll write to tell you when I’ll be in London, and then we’ll meet, however much they try to stop us, and then I’ll be happy again and I’ll try to make you happy by not being a half wit. All my love for as long as forever & ever is Dylan

XX

– Letter from Dylan Thomas to his future wife Caitlin Macnamara in 1936, a few months after meeting her in a pub in the heart of London.

Life While-You-Wait

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run —
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

– Wisława Szymborska

Wait


Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

– Galway Kinnell

For You

I don’t want to say anything about
how dark it is right now, how quiet.
Those yellow lanterns among the trees,
cars on the road beyond the forest,
I have nothing to say about them.
And there’s half a moon as well
that I don’t want to talk about,
like those slow clouds edged
with silver, or the few unassembled stars.
There’s more to all of that than this,
of course, and you would know it
better than most, better I mean
than any other, which is only
to say I had always intended
finding you here where I could
tell you exactly what I wanted to say
as if I had nothing to say
to anyone but you.

– Lawrence Raab

Untitled

I look up, you are standing
on the other side of the window

now your body
glimmers in the dark

room / you rise above me
smooth, chill, stone-

white / you smell of tunnels
you smell of too much time

I should have used leaves
and silver to prevent you

instead I summoned

you are not a bird you do not fly
you are not an animal you do not run

you are not a woman

your mouth is nothingness
where it touches me I vanish

you descend on me like age
you descend on me like earth

– Margaret Atwood

Aubade

There was one summer
that returned many times over
there was one flower unfurling
taking many forms

Crimson of the monarda, pale gold of the late roses

There was one love
There was one love, there were many nights

Smell of the mock orange tree
Corridors of jasmine and lilies
Still the wind blew

There were many winters but I closed my eyes
The cold air white with dissolved wings

There was one garden when the snow melted
Azure and white; I couldn’t tell
my solitude from love—

There was one love; he had many voices
There was one dawn; sometimes
we watched it together

I was here
I was here

There was one summer returning over and over
there was one dawn
I grew old watching

– Louise Glück