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Thread: On critiques and replies

  1. #1

    On critiques and replies

    The focus of this is going to be on my feelings and opinions. With critiques I will be focusing on what I like to provide for others. On replies I will be speaking on replies I have received, and how they have or not have, been helpful. I will begin with a critique discussion and follow with the reply portion. We all know that this forum operates on the critique for critique basis. One principle I try to follow is not to be an editor. Always trying to focus on providing a writer with critique from a writer. If there is a definite issue, I try to preface my comments with; "You may want to consider..."; or, This is what it means to me..." Once again, I am not an editor.So, there's the thesis.

    When I critique a piece I try to do it in a consistent manner for every piece. I have developed and adopted a specific form, an outline, one might say. I begin after the first reading, with a general analysis of the piece. I like to include; obvious errors in form, and presentation; spelling and grammar issues; the readability of it, ie voice, rough language, confusing disconnects; and a first impression statement about the piece. Then I read the piece through several times, and move into a technical analysis of the piece. In this phase I look at, does the image elements and descriptive elements coincide with each other, providing what I call a native quality? I look at each sentence, or phrase, judge how well they follow the preceding, and lead to the proceeding, line or phrase; was I able to read through them without any bumps or disconnects? I look at the integrity of the piece as a whole, does it follow a natural progression, are the various elements in the most effective place? Do they have a proper chronological sense? Does the piece have a beginning, exposition, and a conclusion? Does the structure fit the piece? Then I begin with a critical analysis. This can be represented by, what is the information presented, is it qualified or supported? Is it unique and thought provoking? Did it have any effect on me? Most of my critiques have been in the poetry forums. I try to parse the symbolism, to the point I can explain in one sentence the meaning I took from it. I'm only one individual, I only have one opinion at a time. Providing critiques has caused me to read more poems, then I have ever before. I see examples of others style, and I have to make the effort to understand it. I see others using symbolism and metaphor; that, on occasion leaves me scratching my head.

    Now, all of use are writers here; which means, we all have egos that are much larger then the text editor on the screen. We all completely understand our work, and we all think it is fantastic. We all wait patiently for someone to reply to our latest and greatest. therein lies the crux. We wait with baited breath, and when we notice a change we pounce. Typically we are disappointed. Instead of our reviewers sharing how meaningful and thought provoking our wonder child is; instead we find, that we should have used commas, or, we should remove commas; we find we should have refrained from writing that, or suggestions on what we should have included. But seldom do we receive a comprehensive statement telling about the information that was in the piece, and if it was meaningful. I am not at all suggesting this is a general and universal practice. But, having someone rip you to heaven and back about the errors in form and convention. And then not receiving any feedback on what they thought it meant, is like pulling out to soon and rolling over and going to sleep. So, if you have to take one of your brethren down, build him up some afterward. Make it a teaching moment. Remember, the next wet spot you save, may be your own.

    Well I hope my little diatribe has been meaningful, or at least entertaining. I guess if I would just want you to leave with a basic understanding of what I have been relating. That would be, refrain from editing others work. If you relate that something is not right, give a good explanation why it is. You can offer examples for a fix, but you can't demand let they be fixed. Focus on I statements, I think, I suggest, I understood. Most of us when we post a piece, have determined it is ready, it works for us, and we are loth to make any changes; just cause someone said, this is wrong.
    Last edited by jeffrey c mcmahan; May 13th, 2012 at 05:02 PM. Reason: correcting ommision

  2. #2
    WF Veteran Kevin's Avatar
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    I agree with much of what you say except for the part about ego. I'm nothing but a lowly worm, and as such can't really understand much of it, but...
    even worms try to squirm away when you go to step on them. Makes you think, huh?

    I don't mind the possible alternate/suggestions either.
    Last edited by Kevin; May 13th, 2012 at 02:54 AM.

  3. #3
    The definition of ego is being at a dinner party and being seated next to the devil; then asking him to please pass the salt.

    Kevin:

    Thanks for your interest.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by jeffrey c mcmahan View Post
    Now, all of use are writers here; which means, we all have egos that are much larger then the text editor on the screen. We all completely understand our work, and we all think it is fantastic. We all wait patiently for someone to reply to our latest and greatest. therein lies the crux. We wait with baited breath, and when we notice a change we pounce. Typically we are disappointed. Instead of our reviewers sharing how meaningful and thought provoking our wonder child is; instead we find, that we should have used commas, or, we should remove commas; we find we should have refrained from writing that, or suggestions on what we should have included. But seldom do we receive a comprehensive statement telling about the information that was in the piece, and if it was meaningful. I am not at all suggesting this is a general and universal practice. But, having someone rip you to heaven and back about the errors in form and convention. And then not receiving any feedback on what they thought it meant, is like pulling out to soon and rolling over and going to sleep. So, if you have to take one of your brethren down, build him up some afterward. Make it a teaching moment. Remember, the next wet spot you save, may be your own.
    See, Jeffrey, you're wrong already: some of us don't have egos. Some of us don't fill the first page of the poetry board, for example, with our work. Having an opinion is not the same as having an ego.

    Some of us might not even fully understand our work. I freely admit that sometimes I do not understand or see the full range of ideas, emotions, or implications of my work. But through revision I eventually do understand what I am trying to say. This is important, because my impression (validated on this board and others) is that the people who think their work is fantastic are also the most resistant to changing it. They're the people who don't like to be editors, who feel like it is not "their place" to critique a poem and tell the author "This is wrong" or "This doesn't fit", because, again, they don't like to revise their work. In their mind it is already fantastic.

    My opinion is that some poems are not worth critical analysis. It's a huge waste of time. These poems typically have indications -- little road signs that scream "YOU'RE WASTING YOUR TIME" -- such as an abuse of abstract words, lack of imagery and specificity, or a stubborn obliqueness. If a poem posted to this forum is exceedingly difficult to understand, the reader may not be sure the time and energy invested in unraveling the content is worth it. And this is a perfectly acceptable position to take on amateur boards such as this. Print publication is generally different. We assume, reasonably, that the poem must have some merit, otherwise it wouldn't make it past an editor.

    "Make it a teaching moment."

    This sounds like a rather benign piece of advice until, of course, you actually try and encounter someone who, like yourself, doesn't want to be an editor. What a conundrum! How do you teach, Jeffrey, when the person you're trying to teach -- or at least have a dialgoue with -- is not receptive?

    All that needs to be said on the nature of critiques and replies is this: the poet should be grateful that he has readers, and that those readers have chosen to give him feedback, positive or negative. Because there are worse fates for a writer, like not being read at all.
    "The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. It was a saying about noble figures in old Irish poems—he would give his hawk to any man that asked for it, yet he loved his hawk better than men nowadays love their bride of tomorrow. He would mourn a dog with more grief than men nowadays mourn their fathers.

    And that's how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy.
    "

    Live like a mighty river: a letter from Ted Hughes to his son, Nicholas

    Notes from the Night

  5. #5
    Thanks for the read and feedback, your objectiveness is noted

    "Know It: Know what you're writing about. If you can't completely deconstruct your poem and tell a reader what every single word's purpose is, then you've failed as a poet. Be aware of how every symbol and metaphor complements your poem as you write it. Later you can edit it, but if there isn't a strong base there will not be a strong finished piece." "cite

    It would seem to me, that when I offered my explanation, I became someone who could not take take criticism, your words, I believe. The above cite was pulled from this forum, it appears on the poetic discussion board, and it is permanently at the top. If you wish me to deconstruct any of my work, please feel free to write .

    Following material added 5-15

    "See, Jeffrey, you're wrong already: some of us don't have egos"" Is this to mean you read this paragraph first?

    "Some of us don't fill the first page of the poetry board, for example, with our work"" wrong, I had less then four of my work all the rest were replies, thus I was active in all posts.

    "Some of us might not even fully understand our work. I freely admit that sometimes I do not understand or see the full range of ideas, emotions, or implications of my work"" See above cite, or perhaps you would like to edit that.

    My opinion is that some poems are not worth critical analysis. It's a huge waste of time. Oh no, no ego there, just...

    ""YOU'RE WASTING YOUR TIME" Quit shouting.

    "such as an abuse of abstract words" And when they are underage it's even worse. I remember a time...

    "Make it a teaching moment" see below

    "you actually try and encounter someone who, like yourself, doesn't want to be an editor." perhaps before running your pie hole you should read my reviews to see if I teach, and or suggest changes; or not. Or how about posting some of your work, I promise to deconstruct it gently.

    "All that needs to be said on the nature of critiques and replies is this: the poet should be grateful that he has readers, and that those readers have chosen to give him feedback, positive or negative. Because there are worse fates for a writer, like not being read at all. " Case in point, the poem Ugly(which is on the main poetry board) has 152 views, in four days.

    regards

    jeffrey
    Last edited by jeffrey c mcmahan; May 15th, 2012 at 03:42 PM.

  6. #6
    WF Veteran Bachelorette's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffrey c mcmahan View Post
    When I critique a piece I try to do it in a consistent manner for every piece.
    A good principle in theory, jeffery. I like that you try to treat everyone in what you conceive to be a fair way. I try to do the same, although I readily admit I've made some pretty idiotic mistakes in the past. But, the idea of having a set "form" for crits doesn't necessarily hold up in practice; writers at different levels need different crits tailored to their level of writing expertise. You can generally tell the difference if you've read a lot of published poetry, as Jon implied.

    I try to parse the symbolism, to the point I can explain in one sentence the meaning I took from it.... I see examples of others style, and I have to make the effort to understand it.
    Well, there is a great deal of poetry out there for which "meaning" is secondary. I think of our own Angel101. She writes specifically to evoke emotion; meaning is usually secondary to feeling. I like her work quite a bit, but I freely admit I don't understand most of it, and I'm okay with that. One can enjoy the imagery or the wordplay of a piece for its own sake without troubling over what it means.

    I'm reminded of an excellent poem by Billy Collins that illustrates this better than I could:

    Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins : The Poetry Foundation

    Now, all of use are writers here; which means, we all have egos that are much larger then the text editor on the screen. We all completely understand our work, and we all think it is fantastic.
    I have to agree with Jon; this is terribly inaccurate. Reread what he said about this, if you please; it's an important thing to understand.

    Typically we are disappointed. Instead of our reviewers sharing how meaningful and thought provoking our wonder child is; instead we find, that we should have used commas, or, we should remove commas; we find we should have refrained from writing that, or suggestions on what we should have included.
    Well, all of this, though, is part of the critiquing process. You personally may not care for it, but it's how one improves. I understand that it can be difficult for a writer to be objective about his own work; that's the whole point of posting a piece for peer review. If all you want is for people to tell you that you're wonderful, then you're probably in the wrong place, if I may be so blunt. Also, though WE may feel our piece is thought-provoking and profound, others may well disagree. Ultimately, though, it's up to us as writers what aspects of the crits we will take to heart, and which we will ignore.

    Jon identified the crux of the matter:

    All that needs to be said on the nature of critiques and replies is this: the poet should be grateful that he has readers, and that those readers have chosen to give him feedback, positive or negative. Because there are worse fates for a writer, like not being read at all.
    ^ THIS.

    refrain from editing others work. If you relate that something is not right, give a good explanation why it is.
    Sometimes, though, critiquers will give a good explanation, but the writer doesn't agree. That's the writer's prerogative. But ignoring every bit of advice that you don't personally like will leave you right back at square one, and again, I have to marvel at the idea of posting a piece for peer review that you've already decided is perfect. Again, if you're just looking for people to tell you that you're wonderful... I don't know. I guess I just don't understand that mentality.

    You can offer examples for a fix, but you can't demand let they be fixed.
    I don't believe the critiquers here make a practice of DEMANDING that something be fixed. If something is stated rather bluntly, it's not a demand; it just may be that critiquer's style. One should, I think, try one's best to be respectful. But some people need to be told things bluntly.

    I'll use myself as an example. I'm pretty thin-skinned, unfortunately. Sometimes I'll post something and someone else will rip it to shreds. And it can hurt. And even though it might take me a couple of days to accept what someone has said about a piece I worked hard on, I've learned that what ultimately matters is that someone took the time, out of their busy lives, to read, and comment on something I wrote. Again, Jon hit the proverbial nail on the head. Crits take a lot of work.

    Most of us when we post a piece, have determined it is ready, it works for us, and we are loth to make any changes
    Then why post it? If, to you, it's done and needs no improvement, than posting it for peer review is an exercise in futility.

    Anyway! That's just one girl's take on critiquing. One thing I might suggest to you, jeffery, is that if you're not getting the kind of crits you want, you can specify in the original post what you'd especially like people to comment on. If, for example, you want to know if the meaning of the piece came through clearly, then say so.

    That doesn't mean people won't comment on other things. Particularly, they may comment on other things as they relate to your original request. People are going to comment on whatever they think needs to be improved. Really though, that's for the best. It's how one grows as a writer. We can always, always improve, but, unless you're Emily Dickinson (and no one here is, or ever will be) writing in a vacuum is not conductive to polishing one's skill.
    Last edited by Bachelorette; May 15th, 2012 at 06:17 PM. Reason: clarified a point - I hope
    When will children learn to let their wildernesses burn?
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  7. #7
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    Nothing I ever write is perfect, but it is interesting how critics disagree on exactly where it misses being perfect, and by how much...
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

  8. #8
    bloggs:


    I read your entire post. You have communicated what I can say is right. If you read the topic paragraph you would have noted that the paragraph in question, was all about me, and my experiences from others reviews. And not any specific individuals. I suppose I could have avoided all this distraction by using personal pronouns exclusively in the paragraph, I choose not to, not that you ask, but, to bring the reader into the discussion. If none of it applies to you, then I would have to say you are not my audience. The paragraph in question was satire, and may be classed as purple prose at that. Your comments were valid and thought provoking. But being critical of me, being critical of Jon M. While the whole piece is up there, and Jon chose to review only one paragraph of it; which as I have said is satire and purple to boot, is not productive by my definition of the word. You provided constructive criticism, while Jon provided...

    I did note reference in your review that told me you had read the essay. I did not get the same impression from other reviewers; except perhaps the two that liked it and left no review.

    You are right that not all authors work requires the same treatment, and I have deviated from the general on occasion.

    Thank you for the read and your interest

    regards

    jeffrey

  9. #9
    Ah; Bloggs; it was Bachelorette's review I read completely; My bad

    Miss B, thanks for the read and review.

    Thanks for the read and feedback; of which, as I have discussed, in my reply to Bloggs. And yes, Bloggs, Thank you for the read and your interest. While I apologies for any confusion noted. I hope that since this article was on top, I won't be censured for bumping.

    regards

    jeffrey

  10. #10
    Member JessBradley's Avatar
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    Fascinating as a total newbie to witness such intellectual jousting! Seriously though, taking sections from each contribution I find very thought provoking and good steerage towards future crits I would wish to make, behaviour on the Forum- and even respect for fellow contributors.

    If anything though, it has suddenly raised the bar here and i certainly do not feel worthy yet to offer a critique of anyones work, least of all that I have not yet offered up work of my own. When that time arrives however, I honestly do expect my lack of writing finesse, experience and technique to attract largely negative feedback but that is only to be expected. not that I shall be discouraged from that- on the contrary, i hope to use it positively and adjust and hone my skills following the excellent advice. I certainly shall not be submitting just for the congratulations or admiration of the piece- such action is surely vanity to do so- nor would I think my work would be be fantastic and in all honesty, very much the opposite.

    For the moment i have decided the decent thing to do is to watch, look and learn. I hope in the meantime should I breach any etiquette that I can rely upon friendly guidance and some kindly tutorship- I am willing to earn my stars !

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