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Don't Dish it Out, If You Can't Take It (1 Viewer)

clark

Staff member
Chief Mentor
I've been insulated in the relative calm of Metaphor 3 for almost two years, venturing only occasionally onto the other poetry groups of WF, so this has been a fascinating read. I would say that many of you senior hands have a clear sense of what the problem IS--Pete's post #8 seems a succinct summary of the problems, plus a few viable strategies for dealing with belligerent or indifferent poets--but a solution at the 'policy' level hasn't surfaced. Maybe that's a bit too authoritarian, but it's worth considering. Here's one possibility: a few years ago a young poet asked me to review her critiques. She said she had good insights, but too often for her liking the OP responded negatively. She did offer valuable and helpful insights based mostly on the text--in doing so, she also made some dangerous errors as a critic (or is 'commenter' preferred n WF?):

--she assumed any use of "I" by the poet was literally the poet him/herself, so many of her comments unwittingly drifted into speculation about the poet's values and attitudes
--in the same vein, she frequently used "you" and other indicators of personal possession of content, so she wrote "your moon imagery seems out of place. . ." or "why do you have an extra syllable in L.4?" Critical comments came thru as accusations.

I asked her to erase all second-person usage and to never use the poet's name in her next few critiques. In this particular case, the prohibitions alerted her constantly as she wrote and rooted her critiques much more firmly in the text. She said she got better responses. Poets seemed to pay more attention to what she had to say.

Another suggestion--I totally agree with Pete et al in simply declining to critique poets who come at you aggressively, aren't really reading what you wrote, or manifest the same errors, poem after poem. Try TELLING them in no uncertain terms (my father's favourite phrase), that this will be your last critique until you get some indication of specific response--negative or positive, you do not care--to the time you've spent. No PMs--everybody needs to see you're leaving that field, and why.

I'm just trying to come up with some specific corrective measures that might put wind back in the sails. If these measures don't excite you, I'm sure they could be modified. My point is that we need to DO something, come up with some alternative stuff to DO. DO. DO. DO. DO. Iin addition to better wind, the boat needs a kick in the ass.

How about trying that? Prohibit possessive pronouns and poet's names for, say, a month, then review.
 

clark

Staff member
Chief Mentor
I just stumbled over a Meaningful Moment ( the very best kind of 'research') that strikes to the centre of our current problems with critique, both writing them and receiving. I was in LIMELIGHT, and JenthePen was being interviewed. Here's the meaningful moment:

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?

Jen: I still have to work on getting
exactly what I mean into my writing. I think this is why feedback and critique is so important to me because it immediately shows up any ambiguity in my work, when the reader doesn’t ‘get’ what I’m trying to say (red emphasis added).

Jen's frustration just double- underscores the absurdity of what we attempt to do as poets. It's absolute fucking madness, and we all know it. Theseus can talk of "the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling". . .but it took me years (I'm a dedicated slow learner) to tune into the full impact of the qualifier, 'fine'. That 'fine' is channelling, discipline, purpose, intent--without some sense of all of those, whether deliberate or intuitive, we have. . .only frenzy: inchoate emotion and half-understanding spewing out on the page as emotional sewage. But we bridge the gap between vision and language in a 'fine frenzy' to arrive at an approximation of what we 'saw' or what we hoped to 'record' of that original pre-language insight. Keats' Odes and brilliant scattered notes in the LETTERS are eloquent on the subject, and surely it is that 'failure' of language itself that Prufrock means when he cries out, "It is impossible to say just what I mean!" and later thru the voices of the wandering women-- " "That is not what I meant at all!/That is not it at all!"

We ALL know this pain, this frustration, and we've all faced Jen's question, and her 'answer' in the interview was of course offered honestly. But I dare say she also knows the question is unanswerable in any abiding way. . . and what the hell does all this have to do with critique and the State of the Nation with the Forums? C'mon, relax. . . pour another brandy. I'm getting there. Okay, here it is: I think that often when we get into the gritty of writing a critique we forget that language is the most complex gift mankind possesses, and if the transfer of information in a shopping list is an amazing accomplishment in its own right. . .what adjectives should attach to the most intense use of language known--Poetry? And when we take a sincerely written, deeply flawed, cliché-riddled, mawkish piece of drivel presented by a 19-year-old, we're dealing with the very best he can offer AT THAT TIME IN HIS/HER PROGRESS. Or wayyyyyyy further down that same line, we're looking at a superb piece, but we feel the tense throughout is wrong, we're dealing with the very best that poet has to offer at that time.

I'm talking about respect for this extraordinary process, which we take for granted. Like breathing. Seems to me if we constantly reminded ourselves of the complex process itself, and the commitment it takes to exercise it and actually put it in front of strange eyes for comment, we would be more sensitive re our OWN tone, our OWN suggestions , our OWN expectations, and be more willing to help and to RECEIVE help. Empathy is a great refiner.

As to the poet response--that is just so easy, I'm surprised we're spending so much timer on it. Easy--if after reasonable attempts at getting some kind of response from the poet, none is forthcoming, one warning, then drop him. Post after post that I have read--we have serious poets here, not Hallmark wannabes,

Thank you for your time.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
" Post after post that I have read--we have serious poets here, not Hallmark wannabes,"

I take your points, mainly, Clark, but consider this. Different people have different concepts of success, and 'Hallmark' poets are about the only ones in our society making a living from poetry, some would see that as the (hall) mark of success. As I see it apart from them the only poetry consumed by ordinary people in decent quantities is funny and obvious, like Pam Ayres, desiderata, like Kipling's 'If', or children's stuff, like 'Christopher Robin'. I don't think any of these fit your concept of 'serious'. I am with you on the whole, but sometimes I wonder if it is me that is different, out on a limb.

Okay, we can confine ourselves to preaching to the converted, but it is a 'Poetry' forum, not a 'Serious poetry forum', or any other sort of poetry forum, so everybody has a right to be there, trying and putting forward ideas. If something is pretty terrible (in our eyes) there is little point in telling the poet that, and only that. There is a concept, frequently used, called 'pace, pace, lead'; the idea is that you tell someone two things they can agree with first, then you introduce a new concept, "Pam Ayres is funny and clever, and I love her accent when she reads, but I find there are deeper insights in Prufrock" "Most poems are short, and the concepts in them are often easily accessible, Prufrock is much longer, and although accessible in parts also contains much deeper concepts", "Christopher Robin scans and rhymes beautifully, and brings back memories of what it was to be a child, but Prufrock is about being an adult"

I come from a family of teachers (You might have guessed :) ) and one of their better concepts is that there are no 'bad' pupils, only teachers who have failed in their job to connect. Our members, unlike schoolkids, are here voluntarily, they want to show us what they can do, they start willing. If they are then unable to accept advice I think it is more than possible it is the way the advice is given that is the stumbling block.

Having said that I would agree, it might be much better to back off at that point and leave the game to someone else, as a mentor I might even have pointed someone at them, but I would try to remember an interaction works two ways, and wonder how I could have improved things from my direction to help, rather than simply be ignored or rejected. That upsets me, I will be listened to, so I am going to work on other aspects of communication besides poetry :)
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
" Post after post that I have read--we have serious poets here, not Hallmark wannabes,"

Please note I am responding as a member and a relatively new (serious) poet. I am not responding in my role as an administrator.

There is a place for everyone on WF.
I take your points, mainly, Clark, but consider this. Different people have different concepts of success, and 'Hallmark' poets are about the only ones in our society making a living from poetry, some would see that as the (hall) mark of success. As I see it apart from them the only poetry consumed by ordinary people in decent quantities is funny and obvious, like Pam Ayres, desiderata, like Kipling's 'If', or children's stuff, like 'Christopher Robin'. I don't think any of these fit your concept of 'serious'. I am with you on the whole, but sometimes I wonder if it is me that is different, out on a limb.

I think this comes down to identifying your target market. Just because your target market is the ordinary reader does not mean you can't strive to write the best poetry you can. I disagree about what ordinary people consume. I consider myself ordinary and I like what I like... it does not mean it has to be all hearts and roses it means a poem connects with me in some way. If I have to extract the meaning of a poem to the point it's like extracting teeth with a toothpick then that poem is not for me.

I love Pam Ayres because her poetry while humorous could also be considered didactic. (a discussion for another day). I appreciate her style but then again I love the work of Dylan Thomas which is totally different.

Okay, we can confine ourselves to preaching to the converted, but it is a 'Poetry' forum, not a 'Serious poetry forum', or any other sort of poetry forum, so everybody has a right to be there, trying and putting forward ideas.

There should be a place for 'serious' poets as opposed to those who want to dump the contents of their hard drive on WF.

We have poets here who never even attempt to offer a review/critique. I know who they are and I wince each time a new member, or those not in the 'know', tries to offer a detailed critique' in terms of suggested improvements only to be met with hostility.

However, there is a case for reviewing how critique/review is delivered. This is a weakness of mine which I recognize and plan to review.

The place for serious poets should be the Workshop. The workshop should be a community of poets (of all levels) who are SERIOUS about improving their work and approach workshopping wearing big girls bloomers as opposed to skimpy g-stings (aka feelings).

When members post to the workshop there is no point in going on the defensive and likewise the critters should also be prepared to stand back and look at their critiquing skills. The workshop is a partnership and as such we should all work together.

'Serious' for me does not mean the cream... it means those who are serious about the craft and want to grow. And if we only have novice poets it's like the blind leading the blind over the edge of a cliff. (sorry no offence intended to the visually impaired)



Having said that I would agree, it might be much better to back off at that point and leave the game to someone else, as a mentor I might even have pointed someone at them, but I would try to remember an interaction works two ways, and wonder how I could have improved things from my direction to help, rather than simply be ignored or rejected. That upsets me, I will be listened to, so I am going to work on other aspects of communication besides poetry :)

Olly, there are some people (such is life) who will never be prepared to accept any sort of feedback on their little darlings except 'that's great'. Fine we have a place for those who want to showcase. Create a WF blog. or if you are not looking for serious critique and don't want to make the effort to work with others post to the open poetry forum. For me it's really that simple.

Olly, on a personal note: Do your remember my first attempt at a Limerick and our first connection - mentor to member? You sent me a polite PM and pointed out the error of my ways. I did not even know what metre was... :)
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
It is probably an inane and flawed perspective, but has anyone stopped and critiqued a poem because of the poem, its content, the writer being a moot point because of the fourth wall...You read a poem and it made you think. And you articulated what you thought. Basis of critique. The author can respond how they please, but the focus is solely on the content and its context, you within the context of critique becoming a default pronoun because most writers, even good ones, do not make a conscious habit of addressing a written voice as 'the narrator'. It is a massive generalization of the reading audience, not any one individual in particular. Like cant terminology, it is a colloquial default. A humanizing, flawed element of informal address, not an accusation within critique, written for the simple purpose of expression one's thoughts on presented content.

Writers make it personal, but sometimes for the reader it can be as simple as: I critiqued it because there is something that can be learned form this situation. Detail and explain. Work shown here...
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Olly, on a personal note: Do your remember my first attempt at a Limerick and our first connection - mentor to member? You sent me a polite PM and pointed out the error of my ways. I did not even know what metre was...
I'm sorry, I don't remember the particular occasion, it is one I set up. Limerick are a super introduction to formal forms of poetry. It is wonderful that working in such a tight set of rules there are so many possibilities, a quality it shares with haiku, and at the same time it is funny and jolly, which gives you the opportunity to show how anapaests give a different feel, and introduce the idea of feet. It gets me started, why not others :)

Yes Darkin, the poem is the point, and the poet is its agent, to influence the poem one must influence the agent, and presumably at least part of the point of commenting on the poem is to help improve any revision, or further composition.

A side issue here, if we do have influence are we potentially stifling creativity by establishing norms? Like an expensive writing course on the back page of a paper that will teach you how to push certain buttons and respond to certain prompts, but not to be creative as it promises?

Generalisations about people are how we work pragmatically, idealy there would be as many categories as there are people, we are all individuals.
There are poets who dump their computer's memory on us, "I lay bare my soul, all 43 pages of it, and you ask if I can punctuate?", and there are serious poets poets, and there are a whole lot more who write poetry sometimes, for a whole host of different reasons, whith a huge range of ability.

Olly, there are some people (such is life) who will never be prepared to accept any sort of feedback on their little darlings except 'that's great'.
I don't believe this, anyone can be influenced if they are approached by the right person in the right way. Making oneself that person and discovering that way is as fascinating as poetry sometimes, sometimes you know you can't win this one, but somebody could. There is a book by Milton Erickson called 'And my voice will go with you' I found inspirational.
 

Firemajic

Poetry Mentor
Staff member
Senior Mentor
A side issue here, if we do have influence are we potentially stifling creativity by establishing norms? Like an expensive writing course on the back page of a paper that will teach you how to push certain buttons and respond to certain prompts, but not to be creative as it promises?
.



This is exactly my concern as a mentor... Poetry is organized chaos... and I am not interested in "cookie cutter" poets churning out cookie cutter poetry. My goal has been{ and always will be} to nurture the unique... to help organize the chaos, so the poet keeps THEIR vision, message and voice... a lot of poetry has lost that "something special" ...
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
This is exactly my concern as a mentor... Poetry is organized chaos... and I am not interested in "cookie cutter" poets churning out cookie cutter poetry. My goal has been{ and always will be} to nurture the unique... to help organize the chaos, so the poet keeps THEIR vision, message and voice... a lot of poetry has lost that "something special" ...

What the poetry forum is organised chaos or poetry in general? :)

What are cookie cutter poets? :scratch: While we are chewing a wasp in this discussion thread on how to mentor and/or how to critique etc etc., there is a poem by a new member, who is also a new poet, which has been ignored (despite this member at least attempting to offer critique on the work of others). Then we have another poet who floods the forum with their poetry yet I see they have made no attempt to critique/review. Thoughts please?
 
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PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
Olly, there are some people (such is life) who will never be prepared to accept any sort of feedback on their little darlings except 'that's great'.
I don't believe this, anyone can be influenced if they are approached by the right person in the right way. Making oneself that person and discovering that way is as fascinating as poetry sometimes, sometimes you know you can't win this one, but somebody could. There is a book by Milton Erickson called 'And my voice will go with you' I found inspirational.

It is an interesting point on mentoring but if someone has special snowflake syndrome is it fair that poet demands so much time? I witnessed this when I was CM. We had mentors giving critiques privately and for what? The member took what they wanted, made no effort to be part of the community or work with others then disappeared. Rinse and repeat...

The Original Post


I've highlighted the key points

- What is the value of a critique? None, if it is ignored, ridiculed, made fun of, and belittled
- But the problem arises when real constructive, helpful critique and comments are offered.... wow, it is time to kill the messenger! Seriously... and the very ones who cant take constructive comments are the same ones WHO DISH IT OUT!

- to keep the feathers from getting ruffled and precious, empty egos intact, should the critique be modified to fit and cater to the ego....

- What value is there in empty praise like "GOOD JOB!! "I enjoyed your poem! Is that what the poetry thread is all about? Is that the direction we are to take?

- Are the Mentors being muzzled.... I think so...

- What happened to the serious poet, who welcomes a strong critique...
- read the poetry thread, and tell me, where THAT poet went....

After pages of discussion, Juls, are you any wiser? Have your concerns been addressed or do you feel more frustrated?
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
What the poetry forum is organised chaos or poetry in general? :)

What are cookie cutter poets? :scratch: While we are chewing a wasp in this discussion thread on how to mentor and/or how to critique etc etc., there is a poem by a new member, who is also a new poet, which has been ignored (despite this member at least attempting to offer critique on the work of others). Then we have another poet who floods the forum with their poetry yet I see no attempt to critique/review. Thoughts please?

This one is on my docket for critique...I just haven't had time, (too many hours at the bookstore.) Hopefully I can get something up later tonight.
 
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Firemajic

Poetry Mentor
Staff member
Senior Mentor
What the poetry forum is organised chaos or poetry in general? :)

What are cookie cutter poets? :scratch: While we are chewing a wasp in this discussion thread on how to mentor and/or how to critique etc etc., there is a poem by a new member, who is also a new poet, which has been ignored (despite this member at least attempting to offer critique on the work of others). Then we have another poet who floods the forum with their poetry yet I see no attempt to critique/review. Thoughts please?



Well, PiP, I commented on a comment Olly made, one that does have something to do with critique....;)

I was talking about poetry as being "organized chaos", not the poetry thread...

I will be happy to discuss the poetry thread with you in a PM or n the mentors coffee table ;)


Cookie cutter poets with cookie cutter poetry is "generic" poetry... and I meant in general, not necessarily here, at WF, but in general.... I read a LOT of poetry....;)
 

Firemajic

Poetry Mentor
Staff member
Senior Mentor
It is an interesting point on mentoring but if someone has special snowflake syndrome is it fair that poet demands so much time? I witnessed this when I was CM. We had mentors giving critiques privately and for what? The member took what they wanted, made no effort to be part of the community or work with others then disappeared. Rinse and repeat...

The Original Post


I've highlighted the key points



After pages of discussion, Juls, are you any wiser? Have your concerns been addressed or do you feel more frustrated?



Wiser?[ LMAO.]... no.... frustrated? No, I found all the comments helpful....
 
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PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
Wiser?[ LMAO.]... no.... frustrated? No, I found all the comments helpful....

Laughing... I was typing away ... then thought... what was Jul's original post? HAve we covered her questions? You know how us poets like to have a good natter :)
 

midnightpoet

WF Veterans
Back when I first started here, I put a lot of poetry on the "poetry" thread but finally realized if I wanted anything published I need to go to workshop (sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake). Any more when I use "poetry" I'm doing it just for fun and don't expect feedback and often say it's "for fun."
If someone wants to critique, whatever. I critique when I can, usually a poem that really impresses me but I still may see flaws. I've always tried to maintain a professional, respectful attitude, and hope more poets and writers take a good look at themselves and realize that a little humility goes a long way.
 

Firemajic

Poetry Mentor
Staff member
Senior Mentor
Back when I first started here, I put a lot of poetry on the "poetry" thread but finally realized if I wanted anything published I need to go to workshop (sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake). Any more when I use "poetry" I'm doing it just for fun and don't expect feedback and often say it's "for fun."
If someone wants to critique, whatever. I critique when I can, usually a poem that really impresses me but I still may see flaws. I've always tried to maintain a professional, respectful attitude, and hope more poets and writers take a good look at themselves and realize that a little humility goes a long way.


I post my work in the poetry thread because, before I became a member, I was a stalker....ummm.... lurker.. and I learned a lot from reading the critiques and comments there, as a stalker/ visitor, I could not see the workshop.... so I always hope that a visitor will find something of value and maybe inspiration.... then that might encourage them to become a member... ;) hopefully...
 
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dannyboy

Friends of WF
I always appreciate any feedback - even none, and know I am the worst at not offering anything back - I try, often but halfway through a critique I start critiquing my critique and, lets just say the shambles builds so quickly I end up deleting the whole thing. I'm happy for everyone to ignore my poems, and so do not post in the workshop section (at least I hope I am not - please correct me if I've fucked that up) I post to remind myself to rework things, to edit and edit again - i often only see the flaws after posting - so I post - and wen i do get critiques it is always valuable - especially when my first reaction is 'what the fuck would you know' that's when I most must (lets just call that alliteration shall we) listen to the critique and rework the very areas I'm upset about - even if that means reworking them back to the original state.

I guess I'm trying to say the reason I post has significantly changed – I know that may piss some off because I rarely give feedback, I will try to (and then I'll disappear again as I usually do) but can I just thank everyone who has ever given and not given me feedback. I do love this place - it's been brilliant for me over many, many years.

So thanks, I apologize and for those of you who carry the bulk of the load in all sorts of ways - you are doing fantastic work.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
dannyboy, I am sure you are serious, I only 'LOL' because you remind me of the remark attributed to Oscar Wilde about "spending the morning taking out a comma, then spending the afternoon putting it back".

Your postdoes make the point that those who write good and serious poetry may not be those who are best at crit. the two are different disciplines, and it may not be fair to judge on what people have not produced rather than on what they have. I can also imagine a bad poet who writes long and serious crit, which is totally irrelevant, I hope that is not me;
See the happy moron
He doesn't give a damn
I wish I were a moron
My God, perhaps I am. :)

we always encourage people to give crit, especially beginners, and it is valuable for them in that they learn to look critically at things, but is it useful to the poet?
 
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