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Author Topic: Charging for POETIC Editorial Advice  (Read 22867 times)
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Matt
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« on: November 17, 2006, 12:13:33 PM »

Hi All,

With the recent Tupelo/Levine scandal sweeping the po-web, I think it is worth talking about the basic notion of charging poets for editorial input.


Some questions to ponder . . .

[list=1]
  • Is this practice ever legitimate?
  • Is such advice valuable?  More valuable than the (free) advice of friends or colleagues?
  • What is the benefit of such advice?  How much is it really worth?
  • Isn't such advice what Poetry Writing BAs and MFAs are for?  As so many publishing poets have MFAs these days, is editorial advice for poets meant for "non-academic" poets only?
  • Does (or must) a poet reach a point with his/her work at which editorial advice is mostly or entirely counter-productive (i.e., "editorial advice" becomes an intrusion on the unique voice the mature poet has developed)?

  • Could the selling of such editorial advice to poets indicate a common attitude in the PoBiz that the poet is "forever the pupil/amateur" . . . i.e., that the poet's entitlement to mastery of her/his craft is no longer a thing to be individually and internally created and earned (even in poets with MFA degrees), but something that can only be purchased?  

    Does the existence of such advise-for-sale to poets reflect a common attitude in the PoBiz that poets (who have matriculated and are now seeking "professionalization" through publication) are primarily under-educated or under-talented . . . or, more generally, that the market for the PoBiz is made up of poets designated as amateurs and hobbyists?  That the PoBiz is never a professional market in the way that the readers of the “self-help” genre are, by definition, never “healed”, and helpful, but always in need of healing, and helpless (i.e., they always remain self-help book consumers)?

    In other words, is advice for sale to poets an indication that poets are NOT creators so much as they are consumers of the product of a specific industry (the PoBiz, which primarily sells “poetness”)?

  • In general, how much can others tell a poet about how to write poetry in a way unique to that particular poet?[/list:o]

    What say you all?

    -Matt
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Bugzita
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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2006, 04:58:44 PM »

On Professional Critiquing:

Quote
[list=1]
  • Is this practice ever legitimate?
Yes. Sometimes a critique, paid or not, can help a writer see his/her work in a new way. Does not mean that the writer has to embrace everything that the critic has suggested.

Quote
  • Is such advice valuable?  More valuable than the (free) advice of friends or colleagues?
I think it depends on the abilities of the person offering the critique. Some writers are awful critics, others great. Also, it depends on the KIND of critique sought: some writers want a line-by-line assessment, others a more overall critique. Free advice can be be great, but I don't see writers standing in line to offer free critiques. And, remember, you often get what you pay for!

There is also something to be said for exchanging manuscripts, but that's predicated on two writers, who respect each other's work, to need that second editorial eye at the same time.
 
Quote
  • What is the benefit of such advice?  How much is it really worth?
For me, such advice can mean a lot. I tend to be wordy, so it's good to have someone help me out there. Also, I may "assume" prior knowledge by my reader. A critic can ask the important questions so that I can fill in needed info. "Worth," of course, is in the eye of the beholder. I'd rather have a good paid critique than a lousy free one.

Quote
  • Isn't such advice what Poetry Writing BAs and MFAs are for?  As so many publishing poets have MFAs these days, is editorial advice for poets meant for "non-academic" poets only?
I think academic advice is different from WRITING advice. Really, though, the advice I received in my MFA program was valuable, but the manuscript I wrote back then was fiction. My current book is memoir. There are some significant differences, so I sought help from a memoirist--best money I have ever spent. He offered me a different perspective on my work. That doesn't mean I followed EVERY suggestion, but I listened and then revised. I was able to cut through the BS sooner by hiring another pair of eyes.

Quote
  • Does (or must) a poet reach a point with his/her work at which editorial advice is mostly or entirely counter-productive (i.e., "editorial advice" becomes an intrusion on the unique voice the mature poet has developed)?
Only if a writer has closed his/her mind to new possibilities. Even great writers get off track and need a nudge or even a push. Great writers don't allow another person to "take away their unique voices." They can accept critiques: take what they need, ignore the rest.

At some point, a work IS finished, however, and then it's time for the writer to move on, hopefully to a new project.

Quote
  • Could the selling of such editorial advice to poets indicate a common attitude in the PoBiz that the poet is "forever the pupil/amateur" . . . i.e., that the poet's entitlement to mastery of her/his craft is no longer a thing to be individually and internally created and earned (even in poets with MFA degrees), but something that can only be purchased?  
I'm NOT a student nor an amateur, just a writer who sometimes needs a reader who isn't a friend and who isn't related to me to read my work and offer some unbiased suggestions.

Quote
Does the existence of such advise-for-sale to poets reflect a common attitude in the PoBiz that poets (who have matriculated and are now seeking "professionalization" through publication) are primarily under-educated or under-talented . . . or, more generally, that the market for the PoBiz is made up of poets designated as amateurs and hobbyists?  That the PoBiz is never a professional market in the way that the readers of the “self-help” genre are, by definition, never “healed”, and helpful, but always in need of healing, and helpless (i.e., they always remain self-help book consumers)?


Whew! That's a loaded question. I guess I don't view asking for reading help as equalling not being a professional. These are not mutually exclusive things. By hiring a second reader, I did not see myself as someone who needed to be healed but, rather, as someone who could ENHANCE the work she already had.

In the PoBiz, books are often being published that aren't ready for publication; too bad these writers didn't hire a second pair eyes.  

Quote
In other words, is advice for sale to poets an indication that poets are NOT creators so much as they are consumers of the product of a specific industry (the PoBiz, which primarily sells “poetness”)?


I suppose technically I was a "consumer" of editorial services. But as a professional (with no one in a position of power over me), I could pick and choose what advice I wanted to take from my editor. In other words, there was no pending grade or promise/implication of publication dangling over me (like the Tupelo/Levine brouhaha). That was so freeing for me.

Quote
  • In general, how much can others tell a poet about how to write poetry in a way unique to that particular poet?[/list:o]
A professional editor can't "give" a writer her voice but can help her find her own best voice. My editor often posed questions, which I think is great. I was forced to answer for myself, and they weren't necessarily the answers expected by the editor. Also, an editor can't teach a bad writer to write well. If the potential writer doesn't write well, then it IS back to school and workshops, preferably grammar classes.

Or hire a ghost writer.  :roll:

What Jeffrey Levine did was unconscionable because he trolled for editorial work in the worst possible way: on the heels of a contest fee/ reading fee (whatever you want to call it). By doing so, he hawked his services to poets who had already decided (right or wrong) that their manuscripts were finished works. What an insult!

On the other hand, writers who SEEK editorial help do so from a position of feeling/knowing that their manuscripts are still works-in-progress.

Therein lies the difference, and it's a HUGE one.

Jennifer "Bugzita"
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2006, 02:56:36 PM »

There is a racket for poets: you can hire them to critique your book.  Levine is cheap in this case, however it is the bizworld scenerio of making your money by volume.
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Wils
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2006, 07:14:16 PM »

I know we discussed this elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with an editorial service. If Thomas Pynchon suddenly decided to charge me the price of a small foreign auto for a book critique, I'd be lining up my relatives for sale on the black market. Lesser fiction writers--good ones--do this all the time (critique work, not sell relatives). I'm just unclear why, among poets, it's a 'racket', or hush-hush, or underground. So why is it?

But with Levine, I agree: it's sleazy because of the volume and because he did it through Tupelo...and because it was a bait and switch. He didn't give critiques for the $35,000 people sent; he only said, Thanks for the $35K, suckers, now send me $300K more, and you'll get a real critique this time--maybe. That's despicable.
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2006, 12:05:00 PM »

In other words, is advice for sale to poets an indication that poets are NOT creators so much as they are consumers of the product of a specific industry (the PoBiz, which primarily sells “poetness”)?

Yes. Absolutely.

Genius does not need your help. Fuck off. (I am not a genius, and I do not know of any, but I am pretty sure this is what genius would say if I ever tried to charge it for advice).  

Pynchon was washed up after 1973. Just rewriting GR incompetently, book after book, and dodging photographers to keep up his reclusive image(emphasis on the word image).
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Matt
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2006, 12:43:50 PM »

Hi Bugz,

I would like to make a differentiation between prose and poetry on this issue.  I agree with you that editorial service for prose can be worth paying for.  Writing a novel is a huge enterprise . . . almost like making a movie.  It is pretty much essential to have an editor (whether or not an editor’s advice on how to write is valuable to the author, and how valuable, is a matter for the author to decide).

But poetry, in my opinion, is a fickle beast.  The “goodness” of a poem is enormously arbitrary.  There are no agreed upon criteria.  And maybe most importantly, there is no paying audience to cast its votes of approval and disapproval like there is for fiction.  That is, the poetry audience doesn’t determine the success of poets and their books (with the exception of celebrity faux-poets).  The “market” for poetry can therefore be created and manipulated without any concern about the quality of the product. Instead of poetic quality there is only sales talent constructing the market . . . and the market is only limited by the limits of this talent, by how much the salespeople of poetry can get away with before the “ethics squads” (like Foetry.com) start popping up to try to regulate the system.

This situation creates a serious problem for “poetic expertise” among poetry editors.  What standard do they answer to?  Does the fact that they wanted to start their own magazine itself qualify them to give other poets advice on how to write their poems?  Can they say much more than, “If you write in such and such a way, I would publish you in my magazine”?

I’m not saying that all editors are worthless or stupid . . .  but those who are good at critiquing poetry and giving useful advice are not good because they’re editors.  I don’t think the talents are related in any way.

I say this, because editorship in the PoBiz today is primarily a matter of ambition, not of “talent”.  Editors don’t have to rely on a great feel for and understanding of good poetry to be successful.  Instead they get grants, they run contests, they trade favors.  How many poetry editors of magazines in print today that are deemed “successful” have gained their reputations from publishing undiscovered poets that have unique talents?  My guess is that it is a distinct minority.

And why?  Because poetry magazines have to compete in the PoBiz market, and this market has nothing to do with merit.  Editorial talent is not even a real factor in what makes someone a “good PoBiz editor”.

I also worry that editorship in poetry today is narrow-minded.  If we look at the hundreds of poetry magazines in print and online, we don’t see hundreds of different styles.  I think we primarily see two styles (with subgenre’s and various levels of quality within those two styles): LangPo and Mainstream Academic.  There are talented writers in both camps, no doubt, but to my mind this is like having a two party political system . . . where each party has more in common with the other than it has difference.  For instance, maybe LangPo should be called “LangPo Academic”.  Both parties are academic.

I think that “editorial taste” in poetry today is extremely commodifying.  The editors defining this “taste” may be capable of telling a poet how to write more like the in-crowd, but are they really suited to tell poets how to write like themselves, how to buck trends, develop their unique voices (if they have them)?

Back when poetry was a much smaller world, younger poets would seek out the older poets who influenced them.  They would try to pick the older poets brains and learn what they could from their elders’ experiences.  And then, if the younger poets were any good, they would reach a point at which they would have to commit some kind of apostasy and deviate from their master’s path.  They would have to invent themselves . . . and defer to no one.

The PoBiz has totally eclipsed this mentoring system and substituted an industrial production system in its place.  The mentors themselves have been replaced with peer groups.  Not only does the industrial PoBiz crank out way more poets who all write in similar styles, all have similar beliefs, and have all read similar theorists and scholars, but these products of the PoBiz industry never break away from their master (the PoBiz).  There are no apostates.  Once indoctrinated, you are a PoBiz poet for life.  

Wanna get off that train and burn your membership card?  Fine.  But you won’t publish your poetry anymore . . . because the PoBiz has an absolute monopoly on the market.  The PoBiz “owns” the audience that poets want a piece of . . . and it will sell you some small portion of that audience for the right price (and sacrifice).  Primarily, that means you (the poet) have to do something to perpetuate the PoBiz monopoly.  That could be conforming your style to the norms.  That could be trading favors.  That could be becoming an editor/starting a magazine, so you can better trade favors and get yourself published.  That could mean getting an MFA and “preaching the dogma” to young, wannabe poets.  That could mean writing blurbs, judging contests, and so on.

How many people on the inside, poets who have been indoctrinated, are saying this whole system is bullshit?  Not many.  And I would say that if they are speaking out at all, they aren’t doing it loudly enough.

So my concern is this: what do we get for our money in the PoBiz?  Do we get anything of worth, or do we get commodified, PoBiz dogma and propaganda?  If we have to pay $300 or $1000 for a critique of our manuscript, are we going to get advice on how to harness our unique voices are we going to get advice that harnesses us to PoBiz ideals?

I think anyone who is giving legitimate editorial advice on poetry would never charge for it, because they would be aware that helping someone become a better poet is going to make their chance of success in the PoBiz smaller.  It would be shameful to charge someone money for such advice (no matter how aesthetically and personally valuable it might be), because it has no monetary value.

Maybe poets and editors who charge poets for advice do so because they know they have a product to sell in a capitalist market.  The PoBiz “guidelines” are writ large.  It is easy to run into indoctrination propaganda.  It’s everywhere, in every journal, in every poetry writing program, in every workshop.  It’s easy to be PoBiz salesperson.  It’s like selling Amway.  You are selling an idea of belonging, an inclusiveness, a “get rich quick” scheme.  A lie (for all but the elite . . . who are those best at selling lies to others).

It’s the commodification of this sale of advice that is, in my opinion, a product of the PoBiz industry itself.  The entire academic poetry world has increasingly moved in this same direction.  Poets in the universities are no longer sufficiently educated in poetics and literature (at least up through the MFA level).  They are taught how to play the PoBiz game.  And those who don’t learn the lesson, drop out, fail.

In my general cynicism regarding the PoBiz, I just see any expense that contributes to the PoBiz as tainted.

I realize my opinions on this matter are extreme, and that there are some “good apples”.  But I also know that this isn’t just a matter of there being “only a few bad apples”.  The whole freakin’ apple pie is bad . . . and I think it’s up to the “good apples” to speak out on this, to refuse to be processed into that pie, and to encourage young poets of promise to resist that processing.

But this just isn’t happening.  I don’t think one can maintain “good apple” status when one lives in the pie factory.  If you don’t actively oppose it, it consumes you.  The PoBiz is a Procrustean Bed.  

-Matt
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Ed Dupree
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2006, 02:42:03 PM »

Great post, Matt. I'm with you on most every point you make.


I'd like to add one thing. There's great value in non-"expert" advice, the kind that's given by someone with no expertise to sell. When a poem seems to be finished, I like to show it to a civilian friend, someone who (a)reads poetry for pleasure and (b)loves at least some of the poems I love, and I don't mean contemporary poems necessarily. I ask questions about what he or she gets, or doesn't, what feels true and what doesn't. Many times I've been put back to work on a poem this way.

Who do we ultimately want to read us? Just other poets?

Ed
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Bugzita
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2006, 02:47:39 PM »

Matt et al,

I see the difference you pose here; poetry has its own special qualities.

I learned years ago that I'm NOT a poet, but, rather, a prose writer who sometimes dabbles in poetry. If you were to read my poetry (don't worry, I'll spare you all), you might be kind and say, "That's nice," and move on. And no editor, no matter how talented at critiquing, is going to make me into a genius poet. Poetic genius is innate, I believe.

Having said this, if I, as a young poet, thought I had the poetry gene, I might seek out a known poet (whose work I admired) to read my work and, perhaps, guide me as a mentor. However, known poets are often inundated with the manuscripts of young wannabe poets. How does this poet choose whom to mentor? Obviously, he/she would have to sift through hundreds, maybe thousands, of these manuscripts, and perhaps that job is too daunting. That's where cronyism tends to come in. A friend of the known poet might say, "I have a genius poet friend. Would you look at her work?" That works well for the connected. But what if the genius poet isn't well-connected, or, worse yet, is not a good schmoozer (which, in my opinion, is true of most "genius" writers)?

While it would be nice if a name poet chose to mentor up-and-coming poets for free, this is becoming increasingly burdensome; in the internet age EVERYONE'S a poet, and they all want to be published, so they all seek out the known poet.

So if I'm willing to pay someone (of my careful choosing, not via some cheesy spam rejection letter by a greedy editor) and that person is willing, why not? If I do my homework and select the right critic, then, perhaps, my chances of improving upon my poetic genius have been increased. No guarantees, of course, but maybe worth a shot.

In a way, by hiring a reader with publication off the table (at least at this point), the young poet retains a better position of personal power, but, of course, it depends on the young poet's willingness to set aside publication aspirations for now and concentrate on craft and revision.

The problem occurs when the young poet ISN'T a poetic genius and doesn't yet realize it. But that's life, isn't it? In an ideal world, the known poet would let the young wannabe poet down gently and then refund her money. Unfortunately, Utopia exists only as a concept.

In the beginning, the "reading fee" was instituted as a sort of gatekeeper to the editor. Increasingly, however, the fee did not act very well in that capacity, for many writers were and still are willing to pay to get their work considered for publication. Now the fee is seen as a moneymaker by money-grubbing publications--herein lies the real problem: "If you pay me, the big powerful editor, I MIGHT consider publishing your work, but don't count on it." Such an attitude places all the power on one side, and the poet has been reduced to a passive and submissive subject of BIG NAME EDITOR.

However, if I hire a reader with JUST the expectation of a fair and in depth reading, then I retain my sense of dignity and power over my own work, even if the critic turns out to be a royal asshole (always pay half of a critique fee before the reading, the other half upon completion and manuscript with comments in hand). And then when my work is ready for sending out to publishers, I would seek editors who do NOT charge a reading fee. Or I would simply self publish my collection.

I suppose I just don't see a problem with hiring a critic for one's prose or poetry. It's a personal choice. I wouldn't like to see foetry take a stand against the paid critique, even for poetry--that seems too black and white, and I don't see foetry making sweeping policies for its membership and the field in general.

What I WOULD like to see: a code of ethics regarding publications requiring reading fees and the paid critique (AND the paid book review, for that matter--another potentially sticky practice).

I'm not suggesting that all poets and writers should hire a critic; there may be some very good reasons for not doing so: personal choice or economics.

I would rather see a bartering system in place: "I'll read your manuscript if you teach me how to sell on eBay." Something of that nature.

Matt, you're right in that this area has a lot of murky dark spots, and that it's pretty caveat emptor right now, which is why foetry and other literary watchdog sites need to exist.

Interesting debate.

Bugz
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2006, 03:29:58 PM »

Ed, I like your idea, too.

My Uncle Lyle reads some of my work and generally comments on it. He's good at cutting through the BS, but he doesn't always know why he experiences a certain reaction. In other words, he can tell me the "what," but he really doesn't have the background for offering concrete suggestions for HOW to fix the WHAT. But that's okay; sometimes just being made aware of a possible problem is enough.

Now if I want a gadget fixed, Lyle's the man to seek out.  Cheesy

It's true that I want other readers (besides other memoirists) to read my work, so it does make sense to seek out an ordinary reader.

Here's the deal, though. If I ask my friend Jill to read my book and she agrees, she is setting aside a block of time to read MY book AND make comments, which I then plan to get published and, perhaps, even get paid for it. Shouldn't I then offer to do something for her, such as substituting for her in her inner city classroom? Or some other mutually agreed upon trade? Should we expect our friends to simply give to us, or should we be willing to give back as well? If a direct trade isn't possible or even expected, then shouldn't we be willing to pass along a favor to someone else?

I have worked most of my adult life: I go to work, do my job, and get paid--that's the way I was raised. You don't work, you don't eat, at least that's the way it's supposed to work. My grandparents, who raised me, instilled a deep seeded work ethic into me (though, by nature, I'm a little bit on the lazy side as evidenced by this semester off.  :oops: )

The direct trade, either a trade of money for a service or a service for a service, is so deeply ingrained in me that I hesitate to hand over a 490-page book to someone for critiquing with the expectation of getting something for nothing.

I feel less queasy about shorter pieces, but still...

Does this make any sense?

Bugz
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« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2006, 04:49:04 PM »

I have an extreme view as well.

My advice to writers is run from criticism.  Criticism is bad for you.  Why would you pay someone for something that hurts you?

I would say to become a writer, it takes a good 7 years (give or take) of study.

The writer's ego is important, and on this crucial ego-level, only the writer can help him or herself.  During this 7 year period of intense study: history, history of poetry, etc, the young writer develops his or her own unique genius.   No person can critique you--other than to say, "Hey this word is spelled wrong."   If you're a good writer,  50 people out of 100 will probably hate your work.   Ultimately, getting 'criticism' from another is a crap shoot, a risk not worth taking.

After 7 years, if the writer becomes good enough to become critic-proof, then criticism shouldn't really harm (or help) the writer anyway.  If the writer is good, then Criticism will be useful to others in looking at that writer.  But this idea that criticism is useful to an individual writer is crap.
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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2006, 04:57:39 PM »

Well, yeah Bugz, your situation as a 490-page book writer is maybe a tad different from mine! And I see your point about reciprocity between friends--but then I guess I define a friend as someone I can ask do me a favor when I need it, and who knows I'll do him or her one. Poems (especially mine) being short, the favor's not so large, and anyway my non-poet friends are usually curious to see what I've been up to, bless their hearts.

Ed
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Bugzita
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« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2006, 05:10:00 PM »

Quote
Well, yeah Bugz, your situation as a 490-page book writer is maybe a tad different from mine! And I see your point about reciprocity between friends--but then I guess I define a friend as someone I can ask do me a favor when I need it, and who knows I'll do him or her one. Poems (especially mine) being short, the favor's not so large, and anyway my non-poet friends are usually curious to see what I've been up to, bless their hearts.


Ah, yes, Ed, I understand your viewpoint better.

 Cheesy

Bugz
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2006, 05:11:36 PM »

Whoah, Monday, is it really true that no one has ever put their finger on a problem you hadn't seen? It's happened to me lots of times. When I've given a short poem the months or maybe years it requires, and I'm really really sure it's done, but then I show it and someone puts me back to work on it, I feel very lucky, like someone who's just had a close brush with mortifying error. And as I was telling Bugz, it's just as likely to be a civilian as another poet who saves my ass this way.
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« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2006, 10:22:39 AM »

Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
Whoah, Monday, is it really true that no one has ever put their finger on a problem you hadn't seen? It's happened to me lots of times. When I've given a short poem the months or maybe years it requires, and I'm really really sure it's done, but then I show it and someone puts me back to work on it, I feel very lucky, like someone who's just had a close brush with mortifying error. And as I was telling Bugz, it's just as likely to be a civilian as another poet who saves my ass this way.


Ed,

I think the key here is, "a problem you hadn't seen."   If you don't "see" things in your own work, to me, that's on the level of someone saying, "Uh...you spelled this word wrong."  And you go, "Well, bust my britches, it looks like I did."   But if a poet is writing stuff which they don't "see" then something deeper is wrong, something which can never be "fixed" by another reader saying, "look at this."   I'm not saying one person cannot read another's person's poem and "find" something, but this is on the level of 'missing a chess move,' and not on the deeper level of artistic creation.   So superficial 'corrections' happen all the time, sure, and I agree with you that 'friends' can do this as well as some 'expert' who demands money.  But critiquing by another can not substitute for that '7 years of study' which I mentioned.  And, when you read  a poem you wrote months or years before, you inevitably 'find' things you don't like.  Self-editing is crucial, and I would think, far more useful in the long run, than letting someone else give 'critiques.'

I guess I'm arguing for an independence of spirit in the laboratory-work of self-criticism.  

I do think a poet is their own best critic, and the poet knows, or ought to know, how good they really are.   If you have to ask another, you'll never know.   Reading other poetry is a much better way to learn than to have someone pick at your own.   The formula is very simple for me: Imitate the best poetry, and hopefully some of you will rub off on your imitation.  The friendly 'critique' will inevitably fail to know what you are trying to 'imitate,' or be embarrassed by the 'you' which they see in the poem.

There are all sorts of ways for 'critiques' to backfire, to go wrong, to misread.  No matter how 'expert' the critique-er, this will inevitably happen. The poet is finally the most efficient critic of his own work, for a multitude of reasons.  

Poets cannot really develop as thinkers, as poets, 'by critique.'  

'Critiques' can tweak, but nothing more.  Critiques are not worth money, and should never be taken very seriously.  The 'serious' stuff happens when the poet is alone.

There.  Now I hope I've put a whole rotten industry out of business.  :wink:

Monday
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Matt
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« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2006, 11:42:11 AM »

Quote from: "Bugzita"
Having said this, if I, as a young poet, thought I had the poetry gene, I might seek out a known poet (whose work I admired) to read my work and, perhaps, guide me as a mentor. However, known poets are often inundated with the manuscripts of young wannabe poets. How does this poet choose whom to mentor? Obviously, he/she would have to sift through hundreds, maybe thousands, of these manuscripts, and perhaps that job is too daunting. That's where cronyism tends to come in. A friend of the known poet might say, "I have a genius poet friend. Would you look at her work?" That works well for the connected. But what if the genius poet isn't well-connected, or, worse yet, is not a good schmoozer (which, in my opinion, is true of most "genius" writers)?

While it would be nice if a name poet chose to mentor up-and-coming poets for free, this is becoming increasingly burdensome; in the internet age EVERYONE'S a poet, and they all want to be published, so they all seek out the known poet.


Good points, Bugz.  The mentorship system I complained was lacking in today's racket is not very practical due to the size of the PoBiz and the number of young poets looking for instruction.  I know I wouldn't be interested in reading a lot of (probably terrible) manuscripts.  On the other hand, if someone wrote me an intriguing letter that demonstrated a deep and sincere understanding of my poetics (and here, I am of course pretending that anyone would take an interest in such a thing for the sake of argument) and also offered a manuscript or some poems to look at, I think that would pique my interest enough to give it a shot.  I mean, if the attempt to communicate with me was deeply personal and meaningful, I would reply (for free) out of camaraderie and human decency.

But if some schmoe just sent me a manuscript with a letter that read, "Hey, I heard you're a poet.  Well, I'm a poet, too.  Will you read my manuscript and tell me what you think?" then I would just reply that I don't read manuscripts.

But I can't imagine a situation in which I would charge money for editorial services.  I mean for poetry specifically.  Editing a 700 page work of prose is serious work, and those who undertake such a task do deserve to be paid.

Quote from: "Bugzita"
I suppose I just don't see a problem with hiring a critic for one's prose or poetry. It's a personal choice. I wouldn't like to see foetry take a stand against the paid critique, even for poetry--that seems too black and white, and I don't see foetry making sweeping policies for its membership and the field in general.


I would never attempt to make my cranky ideas into Foetry.com policies.  And you are completely right that Foetry.com should not institute a policy against paid editing.

The bottom line is that if a poet believes the editing of their manuscript is worth a certain amount of money, and when they receive such a service, they find the expense worth while, then that's fine.  No impropriety in this arrangement.

But I have to admit that, personally, I would not use such a service or find it useful.  My opinion on the matter is sort of a combination between Ed's idealistic communism and Monday's proud rejection of outside criticism (poets without pride are worthless beasts . . . and we should note how one of the main goals of writing programs is to beat the pride out of poets; but with that pride goes individuality, with individuality goes consciousness, and with consciousness goes any hope at ethical integrity).

On a philosophical level, I think it is worth asking (and debating) whether or not "professional" editing services for poetry can ever be truly beneficial.  That is, does this "professionalization" of the poetic process ever do enough good to make up for the inevitable harm it most certainly does?  Is it, for instance, worth "professionalizing" one's poems (by any method) in order to publish them in PoBiz journals, even when such professionalization may reduce their quality and convert their artistry into a commodity?

I worry that any desire to conform poems to PoBiz criteria is a desire misplaced, a desire contrary to the genuine creative, artistic drive.

Yours,
Matt
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