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workshopping & revising


we all know the importance of revisions in the workshopping thang. but posting successive revisions is not the only way you can effectively revise. i think what really matters is whether we are actually looking for a critical appraisal of the poem or not. i know i am, but sometimes i don't post revisions. sometimes i do a slew of those. the idea for me is to look at my own poems objectively and from diff perspectives. in case we don't want criticism (+ve or -ve) then i am okay with calling the stuff "showcasing."

as far as questioning say tense (in)consistency is concerned i am okay with "critting." i have no problems with analyzing a poem, questioning stuff, tearing down stuff, pointing out cliches, run-on sentences, too many modifiers, proofing &c. at the same time i'll probably look at it from the logic of the poem and also question how much of it adds to the aesthetic for me rather than set arbitrary standards. knowing what my own assumptions as a critic are, and trying to compare them with the poster's, is very important for me- at least in a workshop setting. sometimes it can also happen that you don't need to look at any such stuff to provide an excellent crit. you take a more macro view of the poem, but map the terrain more effectively in the process. that depends i guess. i appraise crits as much as i appraise poems. if, for example, i am unaware of the reading that has gone behind a particular poem, or the stuff that inspired it, or the scaffolding of history/precedence it has-my crit can be pretty irrelevant for the poet. (i do that a lot btw. going off on a tangent)

for that matter, diff people have different approaches to revising. the number of revisions posted is not a reliable indicator of how interested the poet is in the process. one poet for example rarely posts a revision, but he is very responsive (& enviably articulate) when it comes to discussing the nuances of the stuff. i have known him to think over several poems, often spread out in time, spread out enough not to register in workshop time, and often the discussion doesn't start from 0, but has some carryover from some previous suchlike. so the revising or the workshopping becomes more of an organic process then. where inputs A, b and C need not always lead to an output D, but stuff happens inside the black box that is the poet/poster and a revision/ original comes out-another poem. i am sure this process can go a long way towards helping the poster understand her/his own poem better regardless of whether a revision is possible on her/his part or not. at the end of the day, the revision is a lottery win. you got that diamond or you didn't.

i mean that's just my idea of worshopping. so it might be flawed for all i know. heh.

[er. i just modified this from one of my comments. i looked at & it was like whoa this looks like an essay dude]

Last edited by arkava, Dec/21/2011, 9:17 am
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: workshopping & revising


Thanks for this, arka. Gets me to thinking it would be helpful to articulate how I go about this process of offering and receiving criticism. I will come back to this, maybe others will too.

[sign in to see URL] the risk of sounding like a dumbass, are you celebrating any holidays in your part of the world? If so, enjoy!

Chris
Dec/23/2011, 10:40 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Re: workshopping & revising


er. i am off to this office function 2morrow. it's a saturday too. gonna mess with my reading. but there's this girl coming there. unfortunately i have this friendly aura abt me that makes me the indispensable neuter friend. hoping things will be diff this time...
Dec/23/2011, 10:48 am Link to this post Send Email to arkava   Send PM to arkava Blog
 
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hey arka,

Young women are silly things (I used to be one,) forever chasing edgy, elusive, bad boy [sign in to see URL] wallowing in bitter disappointment. Just channel your inner Hulk and she will be duly captivated,

Chris
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arkava wrote:

we all know the importance of revisions in the workshopping thang. but posting successive revisions is not the only way you can effectively revise. i think what really matters is whether we are actually looking for a critical appraisal of the poem or not. i know i am, but sometimes i don't post revisions. sometimes i do a slew of those. the idea for me is to look at my own poems objectively and from diff perspectives. in case we don't want criticism (+ve or -ve) then i am okay with calling the stuff "showcasing." [Do you mean to post w/o wanting any feedback? So you are saying, not everybody really wants any criticism, right?]

as far as questioning say tense (in)consistency is concerned i am okay with "critting." i have no problems with analyzing a poem, questioning stuff, tearing down stuff, pointing out cliches, run-on sentences, too many modifiers, proofing &c. at the same time i'll probably look at it from the logic of the poem and also question how much of it adds to the aesthetic for me rather than set arbitrary standards. [So is the emphasis on "for me"? So that there is no external standard common to the community which you will adhere to or respect to some degree?]

 knowing what my own assumptions as a critic are, and trying to compare them with the poster's, is very important for me- at least in a workshop setting. [How are we to know what the poster's aesthetic is? By a long association with that poster?]

sometimes it can also happen that you don't need to look at any such stuff to provide an excellent crit. you take a more macro view of the poem, but map the terrain more effectively in the process. that depends i guess. i appraise crits as much as i appraise poems. if, for example, i am unaware of the reading that has gone behind a particular poem, or the stuff that inspired it, or the scaffolding of history/precedence it has-my crit can be pretty irrelevant for the poet. (i do that a lot btw. going off on a tangent) [This becomes a problem because unless we have intimate one-on-one discussions we don't really know what other people are reading. I may reveal that I read some Derrida or some criticism by T.S. Eliot, but what does that really do? It will only be a fraction of my total reading. Maybe you're referring to off-board discussions?]


for that matter, diff people have different approaches to revising. the number of revisions posted is not a reliable indicator of how interested the poet is in the process. one poet for example rarely posts a revision, but he is very responsive (& enviably articulate) when it comes to discussing the nuances of the stuff. i have known him to think over several poems, often spread out in time, spread out enough not to register in workshop time, and often the discussion doesn't start from 0, but has some carryover from some previous suchlike. so the revising or the workshopping becomes more of an organic process then. where inputs A, b and C need not always lead to an output D, but stuff happens inside the black box that is the poet/poster and a revision/ original comes out-another poem. i am sure this process can go a long way towards helping the poster understand her/his own poem better regardless of whether a revision is possible on her/his part or not. at the end of the day, the revision is a lottery win. you got that diamond or you didn't. [This is interesting. It reveals a truer dedication to reviewing, criticism, than most of us have been doing. You have a very committed friend. Yes, it probably would be more meaningful to do this, as long as you were also providing some short-term feedback, otherwise the poster might get discouraged for not getting any feedback for his poem.]

i mean that's just my idea of worshopping. so it might be flawed for all i know. heh. [I don't know. I do know we all have different backgrounds and different goals.]

[er. i just modified this from one of my comments. i looked at & it was like whoa this looks like an essay dude] [Arka, this is pretty good; it got me thinking about some things, and gave us an idea of where you're coming from. Of course, you could go much deeper by explaining or pointing out the drivers, the critics who have influenced you, etc. Thanks, Zak]

Dec/24/2011, 4:07 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Good thoughts, Arka. Good also to be thinking about what I call the poet/critic dialogue. All too frequently in a workshop setting commentators do not bother to parse their own approach and even their own motive. Those who don't tend to come to another's poem with their own biases of what makes for good poetry, biases that can speak to what they find lacking in themselves, in their own poetry. I have no respect for this sort of critical reader, a type that seems to be dominant. They tend to assume they can enjoy a priveleged position on high from which they can look down on the poem getting examined. Said parenthetically, in Einstein's universe there are no priveleged positions. Everything being relative.

The critical reader's first responsibility is one of orientation to the poem. To understand its means and objectives, to take in the poem on its own terms, not theirs. I call this getting inside the poem and viewing it, and the world it describes, from the inside out. This, of course, compromises the critical reader, which is a good thing. It makes her complicit and the complicity enables her to gain in the poem's context. To me that is the big thing. Until I have the poem's context how can I then comment on means and objectives? I argue that I cannot. Without the investment made in the poem, even in the poet, and ultimately in the history of the poet's career of poetry, how can I presume to comment? Again I argue I cannot.

Take your poetry, for example, the approach to which is not easy. Neither structurally or contextually. You make me work. About style, Cocteau said it is nothing other than a matter of how the writer thinks. I think he was right. The thing about thinking is that it has its own syntax, something that can be, usually is, peculiar to each poet's style. I get the syntax of your thinking, I get your style. I get your style, I get the right orientation. I get right orientation, I am able to enter into the little universe of your poetry. Once inside I am then able to comment on strengths and weaknesses, where the poem succeeds and where it doesn't. Critical reading is as simple as this to me. If I had to give it a label I would call it the organic approach. Until I get the poem's gestalt I cannot get means, objectives, structure, or context.

These are a few of my thoughts on the topic. It is a huge responsibility the critical reader takes on in a workshop setting. On the other hand, the poet who brings a poem to such a setting, looking to get it "fixed" has abrogated her own, ultimate responsibility.

Tere
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Re: workshopping & revising


Arka, Terreson et al,

This discussion led me down another path, another consideration -- or thought, since we are talking, seemingly, about first becoming familiar with the background of the poet and the context in which he is operating. All good and well. We know that there have been painters who are discovered after they have died: Van Gogh springs immediately to mind. I'm sure there are also poets who have been discovered after their death, though I cannot at this time think of one. The reason I am thinking in this way has to do with "being understood" or conversely "misunderstood" in one's short lifetime. Some of Arka's poetry I find difficult to understand, while other of his poetry is very accessible. Let's, for argument's sake, make believe that we were too lazy to investigate Arka's operational universe and failed therefore to understand his poetry. So in his lifetime he doesn't make it (unlikely, of course). So are there other poets you can think of who didn't make it in their own time because no one took the time to understand their operational (or internal positioning)?

One of the problems historically is that if you were wealthy and/or powerful, your poems were more likely to be put on papyrus or chiseled in stone. So one could argue that there were many worthy poets out there who died unrecognized by the establishment of the time and continue to be unrecognized simply because their poems weren't reproduced in large enough numbers to escape the hazards of history (floods, fires, that sort of thing). So there might be untold numbers of unrecognized poets out there, like the untold numbers of planets in the universe we haven't seen simply because we don't have the technology to see them. Anyway, you got me musing about things. I know I got off on a tangent, but I got off on it because I began to wonder how the "big guys" get to be recognized, whether there is a peculiar game that has to be played, or whether it's simply a question of power, influence and economics. Zak
Dec/25/2011, 6:43 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Not a shabby tangent, Zak, and not all that tangential. Emily Dickinson immediately comes to mind as a truly great poet not discovered, by which I mean recognized, until long after her death. A few of her poems were published during her life time. Read without comprehension. In I think 1890, after she died, a personal aquaintance named Higginson published a collection of her poetry. But here is the kicker. He radically revised, altered, her poems to fit his conventional notion of what makes for good poetry. It wasn't until the 1920s, well over 30 years after she died in 1886, that one Conrad Aiken, writer and critic, "discovered" her. By which I mean he had the right orientation to read her with comprehension. By then, of course, there had occurred a major shift of poetry's axis brought about by the Imagistes et al. So Aiken was in a position to "come to" Dickinson's poetry with a different slant, what made all the difference. And she is now recognized not only as a major Amrican poet but as a Modern poet before the Modernists themselves. Modern in her sensibility, her masterful use of slant rhyme, and, most significantly, in her expressive use of the verse ellipsis. As a side note she took as the basis for her verse structures the hymnal form. She may have been the first to do so. Seems to me she perfectly fits the case of the poet no one can "hear" with comprehension until a major change has occurred in orientation.

Another poet, not quite as good an example, comes to mind. Thomas Chatterton. He committed suicide, 1770, age 18. It wasn't until the beginning of the next century when the Romantics came onto the scene, read him with comprehension, took him as one of their own, or as prefiguring the Romantic aesthetic.

Then there is the case of the Goliard poets. Wandering scholars and scribes who wrote verse in Medieval Latin. Very bawdy stuff they wrote. Lots of sex and drinking songs and poems critical of church hypocrisies in the 12th and 13th centuries. They were completely lost to the record. Then, after the secularization of church property following the French Revolution, a single manuscript, an under the counter item, was found in a Bavarian monastery. The Goliards are now recognized as having written the last great lyric poetry in Latin. But they do not fit your question so well. They were so notorious, their verse considered scurrulous, town after Medieval town banned them. The Roman poet, Catullus, is another completely lost to the record until a single surviving manuscript of his poetry was literally unearthed in, I think, the 15th C. But he was quite popular in his life time. His satirical lampoons particularly feared by the wealthy and the powerful, including Julius Ceasar himself.

So what is the take home message here? In 2 cases at least I can point to changing tastes and orientations accounting for the right orientation with which to read a dead poet's work with comprehension. That is how it seems to me, at least some of the time. I also think, and you may disagree with this, that wealth and power have no play in how poetry is received by posterity. Poetry readers being the first to joyfully point it out when the emperor appears naked in public.

I almost forgot. There is the case of John Donne who for the better part of 3 centuries was consigned to the midden. It was Dryden who derisevly coined the term Metaphysical poetry to describe Donne and company. Not until Eliot's famous reevaluation was Donne's reputation rehabilitated. Whether or not he was well received in his life time I don't know.

Tere
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Re: workshopping & revising


quote:

Terreson wrote:

Good thoughts, Arka. Good also to be thinking about what I call the poet/critic dialogue. All too frequently in a workshop setting commentators do not bother to parse their own approach and even their own motive. Those who don't tend to come to another's poem with their own biases of what makes for good poetry, biases that can speak to what they find lacking in themselves, in their own poetry. I have no respect for this sort of critical reader, a type that seems to be dominant. They tend to assume they can enjoy a priveleged position on high from which they can look down on the poem getting examined. Said parenthetically, in Einstein's universe there are no priveleged positions. Everything being relative.



thanks for weighing in Tere. i completely agree with you. in fact i have been picking up (hopefully good habits) from all the boards i frequent, not from everyone maybe , but people whose approach to poetry and especially critiquing/reviewing i can really admire and appreciate. that's why when you talk about orientation to the poem i am reminded of yr style of critique which actually tries to take the poem on its own terms. this is easier said than done and i was surprised when i realized this could be done. i have seen a lot of threads where the discussion devolves into sthng of a cut & slash, or a simple posedown and not because the participants didn't know their stuff, but because they didn't care enough about the poem anyway. (& i am not telling a sob story of sthng that happened to me. nah. i love arguing/analyzing/typing brawls too. "bring it on" the keyboard warrior in me says. but the poem gets lost in all that sometimes. of course sometimes you also get wonderful ideas)

quote:

The critical reader's first responsibility is one of orientation to the poem. To understand its means and objectives, to take in the poem on its own terms, not theirs. I call this getting inside the poem and viewing it, and the world it describes, from the inside out. This, of course, compromises the critical reader, which is a good thing. It makes her complicit and the complicity enables her to gain in the poem's context. To me that is the big thing. Until I have the poem's context how can I then comment on means and objectives? I argue that I cannot. Without the investment made in the poem, even in the poet, and ultimately in the history of the poet's career of poetry, how can I presume to comment? Again I argue I cannot.



this complicity that you mention. beautifully put. is there any other way to enter/live within a poem? tho we rarely do that in a [sign in to see URL] the poem, meeting it on its own terms, and then looking at means and objectives. yes!
 
quote:

Take your poetry, for example, the approach to which is not easy. Neither structurally or contextually. You make me work. About style, Cocteau said it is nothing other than a matter of how the writer thinks. I think he was right. The thing about thinking is that it has its own syntax, something that can be, usually is, peculiar to each poet's style. I get the syntax of your thinking, I get your style. I get your style, I get the right orientation. I get right orientation, I am able to enter into the little universe of your poetry. Once inside I am then able to comment on strengths and weaknesses, where the poem succeeds and where it doesn't. Critical reading is as simple as this to me. If I had to give it a label I would call it the organic approach. Until I get the poem's gestalt I cannot get means, objectives, structure, or context.



this is spot on man. the syntax of thinking. orienting oneself to the [sign in to see URL] at the poem's gestalt. i can see how these feed into one another. i think of the process as organic too. but having it described this way clarifies my thinking somehow.

quote:

These are a few of my thoughts on the topic. It is a huge responsibility the critical reader takes on in a workshop setting. On the other hand, the poet who brings a poem to such a setting, looking to get it "fixed" has abrogated her own, ultimate responsibility.

Tere



thanks for thinking along with us Tere. emoticon

arka



Last edited by arkava, Jan/2/2012, 10:53 am
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Arka, I so enjoy working in tandem with you. You put me in mind of precisely what I wanted when we made this board. This is how it can go when given a chance.

Tere
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Hi all,

I'm really confused about critiquing. Not sure I am very good at it anymore. I enjoy reading and responding to poems, but more and more I realize, what the hell do I know. Sure, I know what I like and don't like, what works for me and what doesn't, but my preferences can be a limitation as well as an asset, my observations as detrimental as they are useful. Add to that that my preferences can and do change over time. My likes and dislikes can wobble. A current mood can cast a temporary light or shadow over my perceptions and receptivity. (Geez, I hate to think that my crits are only as good the stability of my blood sugar levels.)

All this makes me realize that good critiquing takes time. Time spent with a single poem, yes, but also time spent with a body of work, time spent reflecting on one's own motives, time spent reading other stuff, and as cliched as it may sound, time spent living. All this is preamble to what's really bothering me, but what's really bothering me I can't yet say.
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No need to get hung up on "critique". Rather, I think, what we want is dialog -- because while I may hear in my inner ear exactly what I mean to say, I can't hear in your ear what you have understood, nor how my song has affected your dance. And if your perceptions change over time, or over mood, that is a changing of information to discuss as well.
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In the interview with Helen Vendler Kat linked us to some weeks ago she said an interesting thing. She said the poetry critic does not have conversation with the poet, but, rather, with the poetry reader. But she is a different sort of critic. She is not operating in a workshop setting the way we are. She is working in the context of culture and the canon of poetry. Big difference.

Libra is right, of course. Here the spirit of exchange between critical reader and author is more in the nature of a dialogue. The forum, Poetry Spectrum, is subheaded: a place for poet and critic dialogue. That has always been the standard at least on this particular board. Something I know Kat knows as well. So my sense is that Kat comments are made more in the way of questioning herself, questioning, perhaps, what she can bring to a poem looking for critical comment. An honesty I can appreciate.

Some years ago with regularity I was asked to judge on line poetry contests. A practice I've since eschewed. It occurred to me that, in order to judge fairly, I needed to bring the same standards to bear with each poem. To be clear I have no patience with anyone who says that the enjoyment of poetry, for both poet and reader, is a purely subjective experience. to me this is a cop out and, frankly, nihilistic in the sense it means the poem itself has no real value. So I asked myself one day: what do I look for in a successful poem? Out of the question came a list of poetic and prosodic elements, elements that, in my view, are found in all successful poems.

This is where the critical reader should really start. If she is going to offer crit then it behooves her to know in her own mind what she looks for in a poem. How simple but how cardinal. No two critics may come up with the same table of elements. Similarly, not all elements will be relevent to the poem at hand. But unless the critic bothers with knowing her own mind, how can she offer to the poem anything?

So here is my (always partial) list of elements, what I look for in the successful poem, both poetic and prosodic.

~Does the poem have line rhythm?
~Does the poem have meaning/
~Does the poem have image impact?
~Does the poem cause a physical reaction, a shiver, a seizure?
~Does the poem operate within its own rules of metrical patterning?
~Is the poem's poetic grammar enough to get to me instinctively?
~If the poem works in metaphor(s) does each metaphor become its own packet of energy capable of carrying over to me?
~Does the poem have a controlling idea and is that idea bodied or fleshed out?
~Does the poem have kinetic energy enough to cross the space between poem and me on its own?
~Does the poem bring me to a threshold experience? I maintain all poetry should.
~Is the poem's language authentic, not trading in the laziness of slack expression and cliche?
~Is the poem itself a transformative action?
~Does the poem have the kind of texture that separates it out from the mere logical statement and make it a thing in itself, not a disposable, re-expressible wrapping in prose?

The big thing I look for, alluded to many times, and I consider a universal is the Holy Trinity.

~Does the poem have gestalt? When it does I can see it bodied above the page, hovering, shimmering.

~Does it have organic unity? Is it its own morph whose parts cannot be cut or sliced without killing the whole?

~Does the poem have tension? Internal tension between all its poetic and prosodic parts.

So this is my way. No two critics are likely to agree. Maybe what matters more is that any critical reader of poetry think about what she looks for in a poem.

Tere
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