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Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Hi all,

I've been following several threads in the Poetry Spectrum and decided to post a response here, as I believe this discussion has relevance beyond those two threads:

[sign in to see URL]

[sign in to see URL]

Hi Bernie,

At DM we don’t have a rule that says: Don’t crit the critter, so I’m not surprised that you might find exchanges here different than on other boards. Poets here are allowed to question and challenge the critiques they receive. We do have a rule against personal attacks, critter of poet, poet of critter, but there is no rule against a poet criticizing a critter’s critique. If someone thinks you, and I’m using you rhetorically here, have misread a poem, s/he can say so.

There can be a fine line between critiquing a poem or critiquing a critique and personally attacking the poet or the critic. I think a lot of it comes down to tone. I find a tone that respects the poet/critic even while saying something harsh about the poem/critique is the most effect way to go. A tone that is condescending, dismissive, patronizing, flippant, sarcastic, passive-aggressive, yadda yadda yadda, may be felt by the poet (or critic) as a personal attack rather than as a response to the poem (or critique) that is made in good faith, i.e., that is made to help the poet/critic improve the writing of a poem or the reading of one.

IOW, the critic is not privileged here over the writer, in the sense that the critic can say whatever s/he wants in whatever way s/he wants, and the writer will meekly say thank you. This is by deliberate design and the point is not to promote an “I’m right; you’re wrong” dichotomy, but to encourage discussion and dialogue, something that is not possible if the writer is limited to merely thanking the critter for reading and commenting. I also want to point out that the writer is not privileged over the critic at DM either. That means the writer cannot say whatever s/he wants, in whatever way s/he wants in response to a critique and expect the critter to meekly say thank you.

The danger in such a setting is an Egos Gone Wild scenario; the opportunity in such a setting is that writers and critics can engage with, and learn from, each other. I trust that everyone posting here at this time is knows the difference between the two and loves poetry enough to follow through. That said, I also trust that everyone is human, makes mistakes, has bad days and buttons that get pushed. We all have preferences and opinions, our particular POV, so we aren't always going to agree on everything. That's not possible but it's also not desirable, so it's how we handle those differences that will make or break a discussion, a working relationship, a friendship.

I was recalling the Chinese symbol for crisis consists of two symbols, one represents danger, the other opportunity. Googling tells me one symbol represents danger, the other “Crucial/critical point”. Poems often address just such moments/places, or the aftermath.

[sign in to see URL]%22crisis%22


Last edited by Katlin, Jun/18/2013, 1:08 pm
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


The ground rules are simple:

Let's refrain from attacking either the poet or the critic.

Let's focus on the poem or the critique in our responses.

Let's keep our tone honest and respectful, friendly if possible.

Let's remember we are dealing with fellow poets, who are as passionate and opinionated as we are.

Let's remember it's called the "art" of conversation for a reason.



Last edited by Katlin, Jun/18/2013, 1:13 pm
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


A good reminder, Kat. Thanks.

Tere
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


On occasion I visit other IBPC poetry boards. I enjoy reading the poems and like seeing how other boards operate. Yesterday I came across a post at The Waters that caught my eye:

"Although this thread sounds like it might be leading to an interesting dialogue on whether a poet owes his or her reader anything, and the concepts of 'approachable' or 'accessible' poetry (for an interesting discussion of Billy Collins' view on this see here [sign in to see URL]) - my overall feeling with this particular thread is that it's bordering on disrespectful -

At the Waters, we like to keep things friendly. There are many poetry boards where people can tear each other apart. Here we have a gentle or mellow brand of critique - unless the poet specifically asks for something more in-depth.

however, we do have a discussion forum, called The Starfish Lounge. Please continue this conversation there.

Thank you!

Jude Goodwin
Moderator"
 
[sign in to see URL],pleasedo=followup

I like the way the moderator handled the intervention, and I also like criteria she outlines for critique: friendly, gentle and mellow unless more is asked for. If I had to say what type of critique we are aiming for at DM, I would say friendly, respectful and mellow; friendly, respectful and rigorous when asked for. IOW, even if you see a thousand flaws in a given piece, no tearing apart of another's work unless that has been requested.
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


I like it too Kat, well and simply put,

Chris
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Katlin,

You're doing a good job defining the parameters for this site. Enjoyed reading the Billy Collins examples, too. Not much we can do about the dropoff in activity on this site. There are reasons for it. I read somewhere on this site that the other sites have also experienced a dropoff. Maybe it's seasonal. Zak
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Definitely, there is always a seasonal drop-off in online activity. Also, there are just random ebbs and fades.
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Not sure what to make of Kat's post, dated 30 July. I feel as if I got dropped off in the middle of a conversation occuring elsewhere, not knowing context. Just don't know what to say, not sure what I'm supposed to take away from the post. Do know I bristle at the suggestion that criticism go "mellow", in which word I read insincere. Hard and soft crit are not the only alternatives to me. As for the Collins thing, again I bristle. To me he has done more harm to poetry than any popular poet I know of and that includes Rod McKuen who, at least, spoke from the heart.

As for the drop-off in the board's participation, in my view it is as much, and maybe more, a function of the lack of reception than a matter of the lack of posting poets. When I was board owner I made a point of commenting on everything posted. I kept as "new" and unread every poem posted until I was ready to take it in and respond. I figured that was my duty. Two exceptions to the rule were, first, if the poem was so bad I couldn't think of anything positive to give the poet and, second, if the poem was by someone who never bothered to comment on others, someone clearly a taker and not a giver as demonstrated over time. I still keep to my rule, still mark as "new" a poem I need to give something to. As of this writing I think there are only 4 poems I need to attend to, still on deck.

But I got to say that the lack of responsiveness on the part of reading members on this board is a salient and always has been. That is a truth. I take to poets more than to anyone else. They are of my tribe. But no denying the fact they are downright selfish. For them participation usually means one thing only. Response to "me". I used to laugh when a couple of long time members complained on how it was that X,Y, or Z never commented on their poetry. I would tell them, and it can be shown, that I am the least commented on member of this board.

Maybe there has been an unintended consequence of the rule I set up that there be no quota system involving a certain number of crits for every poem posted. Maybe that rule, or lack of, served to devalue the board. I think it possible. I might be inclined to recommend the rule get changed, given how things are.

Look. Board members relied on me to carry the board. Keep it moving, keep it interesting. Think I did a pretty good job and for four years. But the reliance on me kind of burned me out. No one person can make a board. If you want board activity you got to make it happen, contribute to it.

Terreson
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Hi Zak,

Thanks for weighing in. I confess I didn't read the Collins link but passed it along as part of the quoted material. Will have to take a look at it one of these days.

Hi libra,

I, too, believe there is such a thing as a sesonal decline, and that might explain some of the drop off in participation.

Hi Tere,

Yes, this is part of an ongoing coversation. My most recent post was triggered in part by this thread:

[sign in to see URL]

Mellow won't have been my first choice adjective, but I think I understand what the mod at The Waters meant by using it. I don't equate mellow with being insincere, and I doubt she did either. To me it means laid back in tone, to use some old jargon. You can say something in a harsh way or say the same thing in a more user-friendly way and make the same point. The user-friendly way would be more mellow.

If any of you know a few folks who might like the board, please extend an invitation to them.
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I used to laugh when a couple of long time members complained on how it was that X,Y, or Z never commented on their poetry. I would tell them, and it can be shown, that I am the least commented on member of this board.

Hi Tere,

I've been thinking a lot about this comment. At first I took it at face value, but upon further reflection, I'm not sure it's true. As you point out, you did a good job over the years being the heart and soul of the board and keeping it up and running. One way you did that was to post many wonderful pieces, everything from poetry to field notes to essays to a novel. I agree that indivdual pieces you post don't always garner much response, but I don't think, taken in toto, responses to your work have been lacking or that your work, overall, has been given short shrift relative to the work of other posters. I can't prove this statistically, but I hope it's not the case. emoticon

Last edited by Katlin, Aug/3/2013, 8:01 am
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Dear Kat you may be right. So much that transpired before the cancer diagnosis has simply fallen away both from memory and from what I think on. And, sure, the volume of posts I've made in order to keep the board active and, with hope, an interesting place to visit is substantial. One could even say excessive. I remember one member once calling our board my blog. That kind of smarted. In the very beginning I posted as little as possible. A member asked me to post more, so I went for it. Still, I think there is a degree of truth in what I said. For example, my recollection is that the first novel posted had all of two readers. You and Chris. I think that is right but it can be verified.

Anyway, my comment is not intended as a complaint but, rather, as a matter of perspective. Observation made that ours is currently a slow running board. Okay. So what might quicken the pace? New members? New postings only? What about the participation of standing members by way of the responsive comments? I think it fair to say that our board has generally been short on that. If this is the case, it is what it is. The only rule we've ever had to govern participation has been the quid pro quo principle. But it is still an element, possibly a contributing factor to the livelihood of any forum. That's all my comment is after.

Tere
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Katlin Profile
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Tere,

After I posted my previous comment and was away from the board, I had another thought: You have contributed more to the board, in all ways, than anyone else has, and that's a fact. As to this board being more your blog than a board, I can only say: it would have been easier for you in many ways if you had created a blog, but that was never your intention. You always wanted a place where others could play, too.
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That is right, Kat. It has always been a labor of love and it keeps that way. Not just for me but for you and Chris too. This love is not self-love but for something larger. For lack of a better word I'll call it a love of poetry.

Tere
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GaryBFitzgerald Profile
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I try to keep up with all the latest issues and debates in poetry these days and I see all of the ridiculous silliness that comes with them. I follow the current Academic-Publishing/internet in-crowd/’all-the-rage’ latest and greatest new contemporary things, the raging debates about MFAs and ‘Academic’ poetry, the criticism of ‘avant-garde’ poetry and “chopped-up prose” poetry, flarf, ‘found’ poetry, the paucity of depth in modern poetry, etc.

But the silliest thing I’ve seen lately I found right here on Delectable Mnts as stated above by Terreson:

“When I was board owner I made a point of commenting on everything posted. I kept as "new" and unread every poem posted until I was ready to take it in and respond. I figured that was my duty. Two exceptions to the rule were, first, if the poem was so bad I couldn't think of anything positive to give the poet and, second, if the poem was by someone who never bothered to comment on others, someone clearly a taker and not a giver as demonstrated over time.”

A) If a poem “was so bad I couldn't think of anything positive to give the poet”, then what exactly is the point of having a critique forum where someone might get a little help with their “bad” poem? In whose opinion, BTW? In the past, many people have criticized the ‘bad’ poetry of Poe, Keats, Cummings, Whitman, et al. Should the ‘bad’ poet have gone to Random House first, instead? Hello?

B) If someone goes to the trouble of writing a poem and then decides to
share it on the internet for no charge, someone who is not so arrogant as to insist that you must buy their book and so offers the poem to all for free to enjoy, is this someone who is “clearly a taker and not a giver….”? Sounds like a genuine giver to me.

C) Furthermore, not everyone is a critic. Not everyone wants to tell others how to write their poetry. Some people are simply poets. This ‘quid pro quo’ thing is seriously misguided. Are you saying that just because someone doesn’t want to comment on another person’s poetry then that means that they can’t share their own? I thought that was the whole point of ‘Chalkboard & Billboard’.

Kat said above: “On occasion I visit other IBPC poetry boards. I enjoy reading the poems…”

So, people can’t just come to DM and enjoy reading the poems?
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


hey Gary,

I wish you'd refrain from characterizing the comments of others in pejorative terms; that just sets the stage for an exchange of insults as opposed to serious debate.

I for one, expect and appreciate the input of others when I post in the workshop area. I do feel obliged to reciprocate, assuming others feel like I do. If everybody were just posting their work without comment or interaction, we'd be like kids in a sandbox engaging in 'parallel play.'

I know what you mean re: "not everyone is a critic," I never thought I was much of a critic, but I can post my response/reaction/sense of what the poem is about etc.

And yes, there's always Chalkboard & [sign in to see URL] said,

Chris
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Katlin Profile
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Hi Gary,

On the boards where I read only, I don’t post any of my own work. If I did, I would be expected, encouraged or required to respond to the work of others. Many boards require two or three critiques for every one poem posted. If you don’t do that, they take down your poem or lock the thread until you do. We don’t have such a requirement, but we do ask members to follow a quid pro quo approach for the reasons Chris has just outlined.

Put simply (I am using the generic “you” here):

~If you want your poem critiqued, then post it in Poetry Spectrum and critique a few poems by other members.

~If you want responses to your poem, then post it in Chalkboard & Billboard and respond to a few poems by other members there.

~If you want to post your poems but don’t want to critique or comment on the work of others, then start your own blog.

Yes, people can come to DM and just read. They can come, read and comment. They can come, read, comment and post their own work as well.


Last edited by Katlin, Aug/8/2013, 10:55 am
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Terreson Profile
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Oh dear. Here we go again. Chapter and verse escapes me now, but somewhere in the Bible there is admonishment against entering into the "endless controversy."

Gary, the board's operative principle has always been, and keeps, quid pro quo. It will keep so until, if and when, its owners decide otherwise. Frankly, if I had a voice in the matter, after what I've seen of poets who come here not understanding the basic concept behind the principle, I would recommend a change. A requirement involving a ratio of comments on the poetry of others to the number of original works posted would be instituted. And I would ask for such a rule precisely because of people like you. That's a fact, man. That's a fact. Your constant complaint wearies me. We've had to treat with it, in one morph or another, since you first came to the board. But here's the thing, man. You can choose to behave on the board in the manner that seems right to you. The board gives you that freedom. So can I and so can anyone else, with certain rules of civility and fair play kept to. If I choose not to respond to a person's poetry because I feel the poster doesn't much care for the livelihood of the board, if I choose not to respond to a poem because I can't find anything constructive to say about it, in both cases that is my right. Freedom of expression is funny that way. It goes both ways.

Listen, man. Over the years I've read someone comment on a poem of yours, told you how much they like it, give you an accounting of what the poem means to them, and then you take them to task harshly for getting the poem wrong. Buddy, that's weird behavior and it borders on abuse.

Look. You can insult me all you want, call me silly, stupid, unenlightened. The huge difference, categorical, between someone like you and someone like me, is that I have made a place, a friendly place, for poets, poetry, and other things. I'm done with this complaint of yours. "She'd worry gnats off a dead horse if she could." An old Southern saying your constant complaint brings to mind.

Tere
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GaryBFitzgerald Profile
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Dear Tere:

You know I love you, man. But you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I am basically addressing the underlying current here: where did everybody go? I recently heard a famous movie director say on the radio that the only way to manage creative people is with a very, very long leash. But here, you are mandating how poets must behave. Okay, you say, you can post your poems, but in order to do it you must do this, comment on that, offer critique on this, respond that way and walk this way. What???? You might as well try herding cats.

When I expressed my opinion that DM was a little too structured and strict you went ballistic. Well, I think Chris and Kat’s response to my recent comment above sort of confirms this, don’t you think? I rest my case. And here we go again, as you say.

I have to wonder how you would treat someone like Maya Angelou or Franz Wright or Billy Collins or John Ashbery or any other Pulitzer Prize winner who just happened to drop in and post a poem. You would probably quintuple your visits, but would you then say “Sorry, you have to offer a comment on another person’s poem or go away”?

You also said: “Over the years I've read someone comment on a poem of yours, told you how much they like it, give you an accounting of what the poem means to them, and then you take them to task harshly for getting the poem wrong. Buddy, that's weird behavior and it borders on abuse.”

This is pure bullsh*t! I challenge you to find just ONE example where I took someone, anyone,” to task harshly.” This is totally untrue, so good luck.

I have always been fond of DM, but if you guys can’t figure out why everybody’s gone away then you will never get them back.

GBF


Last edited by GaryBFitzgerald, Aug/9/2013, 10:00 pm
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Terreson Profile
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


Gary gets the last word. Enough.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/9/2013, 10:45 pm
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Why, oh why, are you so hard-headed?

Life is short! If poets can't be friends then who the hell can?

Gary
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I make this note not in response to anyone else's but in order to, once again, keep a certain matter of board protocol clear. No matter what is suggested or implied by any particular member, Delectable Mnts has no rule requiring a certain number of comments on the postings of others for every poem or prose piece they post of their own. This has been stated I don't know how many times by now. Anybody, new member and old, can post their original showings forever and a day, even until the most wayward cow comes home, never comment on anyone else's showing, and not get turned away. Said also for the umpteenth time, a suggested practice is to keep in mind the principle of quid pro quo, you get what you give. But it is still not a requirement. Not a rule. Not law. Over the years there have been a number of participants on the board who've posted their own material without offering comment on that of others. Not one such participant has been required to proceed in any manner other than that of her own choosing. What rules the board has have to do more with civility and consideration of others. Can't be any clearer.

I honestly don't know of an on line poetry board more in keeping with an attitude of laissez-faire.

Tere
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Re: Poet/Critic, Critic/Poet Dialogue


yes, Tere
why I feel so comfortable here, along with the most excellent company
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Well, Libra, since you've spoken up I got to say you are a long time board member who has found for herself what, for herself, is the right kind of mix of what the board can offer. The interesting links you share, and on a variety of subjects. The occassional poem put up for critique. How it keeps clear you follow along. And, maybe most saliently, the use you put the forum Ateliers to. It is almost as if that forum was made for you to utilize. Chris too I've lately noticed. In the best possible way it serves as your workshop space, your studio where you go after your sketches in the (I think) preliminary fashion. Pretty cool that. And maybe it helps getting the juices going knowing you have a few interested onlookers. Bet it does.

Anyway, my point is that, for you, the board seems to work for you because its complexion is such it works for you. Pretty simple. And that is a salutary thing. Not meaning to single you out beyond and above other members. The same could be said for several. Just addressing you here because you've spoken up. And maybe by way of letting you know you got people here interested in what you do.

Tere
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