Responsibility and Ambiguity


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Thread: Responsibility and Ambiguity

  1. #1

    Responsibility and Ambiguity

    During my daily hour of lurking, I ran across a slightly-heated argument between two individuals concerning the poem and the critique of that poem. To avoid too much talking, the critic's main points were:

    1. They shouldn't have to spell check the poem for the poet.

    2. They shouldn't have to do research to understand the poem, both on historical facts and word meanings. Definitions/meanings should be in the poem, etc.

    This made me wonder where the the responsibility of a writer's content is overshadowed by a reader's ignorance. There is a battle of perspective. Where do you draw the line?

    I understand the idea of a spell check. Granted, things happen, but it is (I think; if not it should be) a rule of thumb to check your work before posting it for review. On the other hand, there's the possibility of relying too much on an Internet spell checker and immediately jumping down someone's throat about a word just because Firefox or IE or whatever says that it's wrong. I suppose that's a case-by-case basis, depending on the attitude of the person commenting on the mistake and the amount of mistakes in the work, and/or the words being mistaken, blah blah blah. This one seems a little straight forward.

    Research took a little bit longer to think about. On one hand, I can see how having to look up every other word would be annoying. I cannot see how this is necessarily at the fault of the author, with the exception of something that is obviously the product of Thesaurus fishing (which would hopefully be noticed and commented on sooner rather than later). On the other hand, I don't think that it is necessarily the author's responsibility to "dumb themselves down" to make sure that everyone understands. If any writer spent their time writing to cater to the needs of every youngster that runs across their path, levels of creativity would have limits. Which seems to defeat the purpose of having creativity.

    My biggest problem, I think, was how the critic was referring to themselves as the reader. As a reader, I could see how all of her points could have been justified to some extent. However, I don't think that this was an appropriate perspective for a critic to take. If you're going to be a critic, you need to be a critic. Part of that is going those extra few steps and investigating words you don't know and researching aspects you don't know in order to present the author with genuine insight into the "meat" of their work. The surface stuff is important, but it's easy, and even an author would be able to catch the majority of it given the opportunity. Getting to the heart of things is more difficult during a self-critique, in my opinion. There seems to be a better track record if there's someone else shining a light on it. People who want to cop out and say, "Oh, well I shouldn't have to," seem really half-asked. If you're going to take a poem on line by line, actually commit.

    And now, even after thinking and ranting and trying to grill the brains of everyone I've been able to get my hands on, I still don't know. Where is the line?
    I've seen the hardest people soften in the spotlight.

  2. #2
    1. They shouldn't have to spell check the poem for the poet.

    2. They shouldn't have to do research to understand the poem, both on historical facts and word meanings. Definitions/meanings should be in the poem, etc.
    1. Absolutely ... but be aware that, especially in poetry,
    there are occasions when words are deliberately mis-spelled for effect.

    2. Rubbish.
    "I don't know ... I'm making it up as I go ..." - Dr I Jones

    Nature abhors perfection - cats abhor a vacuum!

    "Faith can move mountains - she's a big girl!" (unknown/graffiti)

    If I act like I own the place, it's because I did.





  3. #3
    I don't think anyone should complain about "having" to do anything when it comes to critiques. If someone does not want to spell check or research words, they certainly don't have to. I think each person should give as much as they can/want during each critique. That only goes on this site though. If you are committing to a friend, family member, or fellow student then I think you need to do everything you can.
    "A happy ending is just a story that hasn't ended yet."

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Cran View Post
    1. Absolutely ... but be aware that, especially in poetry,
    there are occasions when words are deliberately mis-spelled for effect.

    2. Rubbish.
    1. Of course. I figured someone would at the very least ask before they jumped on someone.

    2. That's what I thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by SacredCircle View Post
    I don't think anyone should complain about "having" to do anything when it comes to critiques. If someone does not want to spell check or research words, they certainly don't have to. I think each person should give as much as they can/want during each critique. That only goes on this site though. If you are committing to a friend, family member, or fellow student then I think you need to do everything you can.
    Right. I think what struck me was that it wasn't what I was used to seeing. Generally what I run across is the poet telling the critic what they "have" to do and not the other way around. What was interesting is that there wasn't any sort of instigation where a critic might defend themselves by stating those sorts of "critic's rights." Right off the bat it was all about how they shouldn't have to do those things, according to their rules. I suppose that if each critic gives what they want with each critique that it should be a given that if they don't want to then they a) don't and b) don't mention it, because why would it be important if it's not something they're interested in?

    As for commitment, I came to find that the critique was a part of a contest. Each 'round' you submitted a poem for a prompt or something and then had to critique a peer's work. If you're being judged, and it is a "peer's work" (fellow student?) wouldn't it be to your benefit to dig deeper and show the judges that you can play both sides of the field? These kinds of details are pretty much moot at this point, I'm just puzzled by the process and when these things are legitimate.
    I've seen the hardest people soften in the spotlight.

  5. #5
    No rubbish about it. Poetry is not didacticism.

    Of course, much poetry is written for readership with special knowledge and vocabulary: students of classics or poetic dogma, for instance.
    In which case, the readership wouldn't have to go study in order to receive the poem.

    But the idea of writing a poem using obscurities that require boning up on to understand is pretty arrogant and show-offish.

    It's a stage many go through, actually. Sitting there with a thesaurus. But like many such stages and poses, it fails the main test: providing reading pleasure.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  6. #6
    Edgewise
    Guest
    ^

    What if ambiguity provides reading pleasure to some readers?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by lin View Post
    No rubbish about it. Poetry is not didacticism.

    Of course, much poetry is written for readership with special knowledge and vocabulary: students of classics or poetic dogma, for instance.
    In which case, the readership wouldn't have to go study in order to receive the poem.

    But the idea of writing a poem using obscurities that require boning up on to understand is pretty arrogant and show-offish.

    It's a stage many go through, actually. Sitting there with a thesaurus. But like many such stages and poses, it fails the main test: providing reading pleasure.
    Of course.

    Maybe I'm wording myself wrong. In a situation where extended education would be necessary, I could understand an issue. What about a reference to a common folk tale that a critic may have heard of but wasn't familiar with, or a body part's function? I do agree that there is an element of poetry that is about getting a "good read," but it is my opinion that if you're going to approach it as a critic during an in-depth review, take the extra steps or don't mention it.
    Last edited by square root; August 26th, 2008 at 07:50 PM. Reason: typo :O
    I've seen the hardest people soften in the spotlight.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by lin View Post
    No rubbish about it.
    It's rubbish, pure and simple -
    there's an Australian poem, famous around the world,
    and it's full of stuff that many wouldn't know just by reading it -
    in fact, there are still arguments going on about what some of it means ...
    Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
    under the shade of a coolibah tree
    and he sang as he watched and waited while his billy boiled
    "Who'll come a'waltzing Matilda with me?" ...
    (AB "Banjo" Patterson)

    that doesn't stop people from enjoying it enough to make it one of the best known poems around ...


    then, of course, there's always Jabberwocky ...
    "I don't know ... I'm making it up as I go ..." - Dr I Jones

    Nature abhors perfection - cats abhor a vacuum!

    "Faith can move mountains - she's a big girl!" (unknown/graffiti)

    If I act like I own the place, it's because I did.





  9. #9

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Edgewise View Post
    ^

    What if ambiguity provides reading pleasure to some readers?
    To readers it'd be a different story. Their issue would not be because they're bitching about "not having" to do something, but because they didn't enjoy it. In which case they could say something about making it less and why, or they could decide early on that they don't like it and find something they do. They could also be okay with not knowing and enjoy it that way...there's a lot of times when I wonder if a supposed ambiguous nature is actually ignorance, but having been on both sides of the fence I don't care. Sometimes it's more fun to not know, but either way I don't see many people bitching.
    I've seen the hardest people soften in the spotlight.

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