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Author Topic: Charging for POETIC Editorial Advice  (Read 22723 times)
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Matt
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« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2006, 01:19:59 PM »

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 am with Monday on this issue.  It's something that I struggled with a lot when I was in school.  I found the conflict very stressful.  Sure, plenty of people suggested changes in my poems, but the changes they suggested would have made my poems into someone else's poems.  That is, people asked me to write in more conventional ways (or more like they would write).

I deliberated on these suggestions for a long time and took them very seriously.  But in the end, I had to reject these kinds of critiques, because they would have only commodified and normalized my poetry.  The suggestions I received did not take into account that I was trying to do something original stylistically.  They basically translated to: "you should do X in order to make your poem more like these other poems here."  But these critics (students and professors) could not formulate an argument for why such changes would improve my poems or help me better implement my techniques and succeed in making my poetic experiments into functional works of art.

So, I generally rejected such criticism (by simply not implementing it in my revisions) . . . and as a result, some of the people who offered it took to calling me "pigheaded" and "impossible" and "arrogant".  If they only knew how much I stressed over their suggestions.  I'm certain I considered what they suggested more intensely than they had before they suggested it.

But the whole situation definitely soured me on the criticism issue.  Today, I feel completely comfortable saying that I never once received a valuable critique of my poetry from an academic poet or student.  I did receive (not surprisingly) some worthwhile, but ultimately insufficient, general advice from a number of academics, though: my poems were too long and too “difficult”.  Of course, I knew this before I was told . . . but this advice was not ultimately a critique, but more of a "complaint".

I struggled with this for years . . . should my poems be made magically shorter and "easier"?  What was the value in this?  I tried paring many of my poems down, rewriting them, lopping off limbs.  It didn't make any difference.  The poems became more difficult and I was dissatisfied with the sense of voice that was lost.  These revisions generated poems that no longer satisfied me, no longer offered what I, as a reader, like to see in poems.

I realized I like my poems beefy, even corpulent, and slightly off-putting.  In this, they are honest reflections of my personality.  Rather than castrate the poems, I decided that I had to earn the right to annoy and over-burden the reader by offering something well-constructed and worth reading.  It was a trade off.

I prefer the rough-edged, slightly stenchy poem to the perfect and refined construction that the PoBiz admires (at least in theory).  This was the nature of the voice I was working with (and I carried over my love for unreliable narrators from my fiction writing days).  I eventually came to see the perfect poem and the perfect poet as shams.  The poems of the past I liked were rarely refined and perfected and "minimalized".  They sprawled and spewed, but they were deep, powerful, filled with great moments, music, and language.  They meant something.  They made meaning out of complex and confusing life, out of thoughts and feelings that were impossible to render "perfectly".

As I embraced this more and more, I also came to recognize that the ideal of the "well-made poem" is a construction of writing workshop propaganda.  The great poems of the past were never so neutered.  Like many of us on this site, I preferred some of these past aesthetics that had mostly disappeared from the PoBiz products we see today.  I even came to identify with this "poetic refuse".

Of course, this embrace of refuse did nothing to ingratiate me or my style with PoBiz pundits.  I was faced with a choice: commodify my style or sacrifice my hope of getting published and recognized by the PoBiz.  I fought with this choice for a long time, feeling wicked all the while for my defiance . . . but I ultimately choose the art over the industry.

I'm not saying it was the best or healthiest choice.  After all, I really don't write poems anymore.  But I am content with this arrangement . . . even if my attitude is deeply foolish and self-defeating (as it surely is in the eyes of some).

I also came to question the very idea that (single-author) poems can be written “by committee” (which is the unwritten workshop credo).  After a poet reaches a certain point of facility with his or her technique (and becomes a poet and no longer just a student of poetry), the art s/he produces is what it is.  If it has warts, it has warts.  The reader will decide if these warts destroy the poems or not . . . and if there is beauty beneath the warts, the reader will determine whether this beauty can be found and whether it was worth the effort of looking.  Why should a poem be determined by a common denominator?  I know that when I read poetry, I want to read something fresh and original, something individualistic.  To some degree, I even want to believe in the notion of “poetic genius”.  I don’t want expertly packaged folderol . . . I want the flavor of the poem to jump through its façade and startle me, move me.  I want to feel like the poem is unique and significant.  Like it has entered my life and set up shop in my psychic neighborhood.  That’s what appeals to me, what I want out of poetry.  And that’s what I very rarely get from poetry today.

Yours,
Matt
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Matt
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« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2006, 01:35:47 PM »

A personal anecdote.  One of the experiences I had in graduate school really drove this self-determination thing home for me.  I had struggled for years in academe with people not understanding what I was trying to do with my poetry.  I did well as a student, and most of the feedback I received was positive, but it was clear that people just didn't get my experiments and the content of my poems.  

I eventually decided that this had a lot to do with my intellectual background.  I was a Jungian, basically . . . and Jung is not taught in academia.  The theorists of choice are of the postmodernist ilk . . . and this places them at distinct odds with Jung.  My poetry is very psychoanalytic.  It's all about neurosis, complexes, the unconscious, the inner journeys, the existential and religious and archetypal battles to find meaning.  Most contemporary poetry does not incorporate such a psychoanalytic approach to "unconscious contents and experiences".  My psychoanalytic background made me a freak in the poetry world.

There was one poet I knew of who was both a poet and a "real" Jungian: Robert Bly.  His ideas on poetics and his discoveries/translations of Latino poets, as well as his ideas on men's psychology had proved enormously significant to my sense of self as a poet.  I felt that, in many ways, I was implementing both his poetic and his psychological theories in my poems.  I figured I was as much a product of his "school" as anyone could be.

For a couple years, I sort of fantasized about sending him my manuscript . . . but this was deeply against my nature.  I hate to bother people with my poems, and I imagined he was besieged with young male poets chirping for his advice and "wisdom".  But eventually, I became too frustrated with the oblivious, academic reactions to my poems.  I was in a state of severe self-conflict, and I really felt like I needed help, an outside voice that I trusted.

So I broke down and sent my poetry to Bly with a letter explaining my frustrations with academic poetry, my Jungian upbringing, and the influence his ideas had had on my writing and thinking.  I told him I felt bad imposing on him like this, but I didn't know who else to turn to.  [I should note to those who aren't familiar with Bly's Men's Movement writings and lectures that he is a big advocate of young men relying on older men for advice and initiation . . . so I thought he would be a good person to apply to for help.]

I didn't harbor much hope of getting a reply, but a month or so later, my grad school roommate let slip that I had received a letter from Bly a few weeks before.  She has "kindly" buried it under a pile of junk mail not belonging to me . . . so I would be able to find it as easily as possible :roll: .  And no, I'm not kidding about this.  She did indeed hide my letter from Bly and pretend it was an accident . . . and this was after I had talked with her about sending it in the first place, so she knew damn well I was expecting it.  It is stuff like this that lies behind my not so stellar opinion of poetic personalities.

To get to the point, Bly's reply was short.  He told me that I was too young to write long poems.  Long poems, he said, should not be written by anyone under 35 (I was 29 at the time).  His only other advice was that I should give up.

Needless to say, this was not exactly what I had hoped to hear.  It was not at all wise and not at all helpful.  In fact, it was downright mean.  I tried to find some sort of hard but useful meaning in this.  On one hand, I wondered whether he wrote what he did so that I would tell him to fuck off and muster my own courage to write and self-justify my poetry (which is, in fact, what I eventually did).  On the other hand, I wondered if he had even really read my poems at all (since he made no specific comments other than on their length . . . and about 6 or 7 poems in my manuscript ranged from 3 to 5 pages).

I even considered his "decree" that long poems are only for the 35 and up crowd . . . and I found the logic in this statement deeply fallacious.  If anything, long poems are a sign of youthful ambition and belong to the impassioned, but not so refined, intelligence of younger poets.  Also, long poems are frequently a sign of narrative intent . . . and many of my poems are prose poems and narrative “fables”.

Although this letter tore at me subconsciously for a year or so, I eventually came to the decision that, whether or not my poetry was worth a shit, Bly's advice was definitely not.  It was banal, condescending, and cruel while lacking any critical intelligence whatsoever.  Perhaps my persistence with poeting was futile and I was a tremendous hack . . . but I couldn't just throw in the towel, because some crotchety geezer brushed me off.  Ultimately, I had to decide what my true worth was as a poet.  And if I decided "incorrectly", oh well.

At that point, I knew that no one could advise me on poetry writing again.  I made all of my poetic decisions for distinct and developed reasons and revised devoutly.  I tried to make my poems the best they could be.  I did my best to consider the other, the reader, when I wrote and revised these poems . . . but the poems were, finally, my creation, and mine alone.  For better or for worse.  Arrogant or idiotic, that was the conclusion I came to . . . and I believe that all real poets must come to this same conclusion.

The fact that my poems may or may not be any good is not relevant.  A poet needs to self-determine.  This, in many ways, defines the poet's individual worth.  At some point, we have to cut our ties with mentors and advisors.  As Monday says, poets need to be their own best critics.  This is part of what defines a poet.

And, of course, my story doesn't end in glory and retribution.  I don't currently write poetry, nor do I feel any great desire to.  I'm not a misunderstood genius.  The world is not suffering a terrible wound because I am not writing poems or pursuing their publication rabidly.  But, still, I believe I went through the necessary maturation journey that a poet has to go through in order to bear the title of poet.

And more importantly, I don't think enough poets today are going through such a journey.  They have never "left the nest" or abandoned their mentors or bucked (or even questioned) their clubs and affiliations.  And this failure shows with abundant clarity in the products they foist upon us.  In my opinion, this means that much of the talent out there is terribly squandered.  And it is squandered in favor of the ideologies of the PoBiz.

And, unlike the loss of an arcane psychoanalyst poet like me, this loss is devastating.  I hurt from this loss, and I think we all hurt from this loss.  Poetry hurts from this loss.

I came to feel I could do more (and we are talking infinitesimal amounts here, folks) by shouting out about this loss, about this wound to poetry than I could scribbling away at my hermetic poems.  So, I don't write poems anymore (or, at least, not currently).  Foetry.com means more, can mean more, for poetry than any poem I could ever write . . . and I respect that.

Yours,
Matt
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Bugzita
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« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2006, 02:35:16 PM »

Matt,

Sorry to hear about your experience with Bly--he sounds like a total ass.

In this case, his advice was very bad and unwarranted and should not deter you in your quest for writing long poems or whatever kind of poems you want to write.

I may not agree with you on every issue, but I do believe that you are probably one of the great minds of the 21st century--I have read sections of your blog, and I'm amazed and sometimes a bit overwhelmed by your ideas. Your not yet being "known" does not take away from your astonishing mind. Still, I love your Jungian take on writing; I had a professor (now deceased) at York College who was also deeply interested in Jungian and psychoanalytical theory--I LOVED listening to him, even as I understood about 25% of what he said.

Matt, it is in your nature to have a need to go beyond the ordinary; it's what geniuses do. You should be totally unapologetic for that. Unfortunately, the ordinary academy is too busy licking each others' asses to worry about the great minds of a generation. In addition, writers are too busy copying each other and following trends. I see it all the time. Too often, geniuses go unrecognized because they view and navigate the world differently, and they don't schmooze.

I'm literally shaking as I write this because I'm so angry that someone of Bly's stature would blow someone like you off like that, and I hope it's lonely for him on the way down.

Meanwhile, you, and others like you, are busy setting your own trends.

Whatever you do, don't give up. If you must, self publish your poems, even if you have an audience of one or two because, eventually, some academic will come along and explain your work for the rest of us.

:shock:

GRRRRRRR

Bugz
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Ed Dupree
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« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2006, 03:15:20 PM »

Quote from: "Monday Love"
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



Monday,

Amen to your wish to put the critique industry out of business. But the klind of amateur reader's report that has helped my poems most is not a critique at all, and anyway I think I've described it wrongly here. I want the reader to see what I have seen, and feel it; so when a qualified (i.e. poetry-loving) reader clearly misses the feeling I've uncovered and put into the poem, it gives me pause.  The reader is everything to me, and I want to grab em and shake em. So I give the poem this test, but only after I've lived with it and worried it a riduculous long time.

I don't advance this as a general principle, just as something that has helped my poems at times. Can we be so sure that none of the great poems of the tradition that we love got put to the same test, and improved by it?  

Ed
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Matt
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« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2006, 03:25:13 PM »

Thanks, Bugz.

And, of course, you are far too generous to me.  I’d like to think that if I do have anything to offer Poetry, it is my heart more so than my mind.  The PoBiz tank needs more people to stand in its path . . . and Foetry.com has done a great deal to illuminate and better define the real issues of the PoBiz.  I’m happy to be involved . . . even if I am a lazy bastard.

But, yes, Bly is an ass.  I have since that time heard many "Bly is such an ass" stories, and it seems my experience with him is hardly unusual.  But ultimately, I am glad I got such a response.  The only response that might have been more useful to me would have been something fantastic and ideal like: "Matt, academia is a sham!  Get out and get out now!  Don't let them tell you how to write.  Believe in your vision."

But either way, it was the same advice . . . and this way I managed to garner the additional benefit of "disowning" Bly as a mentor.  Seeing him act like such a prick helped me see flaws in his ideas more clearly . . . and seeing those flaws, I think, helped me grow as a person (and perhaps, to some small degree, as a poet, too).

But I don't mean to disown poetry entirely.  I still feel like a poet at heart.  My mentality is definitely poetic.  I have just been investing that mentality in prose writing these days (I recently started what may turn into a book on Jungian psychology . . . we’ll see).  Maybe, some time in the future, I will feel like there's some purpose in writing more poetry.  I sort of hope I'll have some reunion with poetry in the future . . . but I am perfectly content for the time being with my prose.  I think I am in a discovery phase . . . and prose is more helpful to me in such times . . . as far as getting my thoughts together and so forth.

I'm happy to let things unfold organically, and I hope to have many years of writing and learning ahead of me.

An amusing aside.  As much as I have always felt my Jungian background served as an impediment in my academic poetry "career", I recently had a strange experience with an online Jungian group I joined a few months ago.

The long and the short of it is that this Jungian messageboard banned me :lol: . . . and this was done because my ideas were “too contrary” (both to Jung's and to some of the other members').  It's curious, because I actually know a great deal about Jungian psychology . . . much more than I do about poetry.

The moral of the story, though, is that it really made me appreciate Foetry.com and our ragged bunch of members.  I have a love for outsiderism and barbarity (as my blog's name might suggest) . . . for underdogs and outrage and "real people".  I joined Foetry originally because I saw how vicious the insiders and elitists were to Alan and some of the other members.  It just pissed me off to see this kind of thing.

But it appears I was a bit too barbarous for the Jungian group.  They don't like too much dissent . . . even if it is intelligent and not hostile.  But you know me, I don't tolerate clubbishness and cultism very well (and would never belong to any club that would have me as a member :wink: ).  I'm a romantic idealist.  So, of course, I made a lovely scapegoat.

But this incident really helped me see the value in Foetry.com and what we want to accomplish, both in the PoBiz and in our own little community.  It's definitely an uphill battle, but the fight is one of the good ones.

So, somewhat sentimentally, let me just say that I appreciate y'all a heap and-then-some.  And with that, I apologize for side-tracking this thread.  I hope more voices will make themselves heard on this issue.  It's definitely a complex one with subtle implications.

I think that, behind this issue of poetry editing services for pay, there is the notion that poetry in America may have transformed from an art form into a consumable, a commodity.  And that would mean it has an entirely different value structure than poetry-as-art has always had in the past.  That is, the value of poetry is no longer a value to the culture as a whole.  Now, it seems, it is more like a stock to be traded.  Its value today is in what it can purchase, not in what it is or what it can provide or what it means.

I find this deeply upsetting to say the least.  I'd like to do something to change this.  But the make-up of that "something" is another matter entirely.  It's no easy task.  

I just know in my bones that something is horribly, horribly wrong . . . and it’s so wrong that nothing in poetry today can be taken for granted or treated innocently.  Every assumption, old and new, must be challenged and evaluated if we are to make any headway in the revitalization of our poetry.

Yours,
Matt
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« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2006, 03:54:02 PM »

Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
Monday,

Amen to your wish to put the critique industry out of business. But the klind of amateur reader's report that has helped my poems most is not a critique at all, and anyway I think I've described it wrongly here. I want the reader to see what I have seen, and feel it; so when a qualified (i.e. poetry-loving) reader clearly misses the feeling I've uncovered and put into the poem, it gives me pause.  The reader is everything to me, and I want to grab em and shake em. So I give the poem this test, but only after I've lived with it and worried it a riduculous long time.

I don't advance this as a general principle, just as something that has helped my poems at times. Can we be so sure that none of the great poems of the tradition that we love got put to the same test, and improved by it?  

Ed


Ed, I think I know exactly what you mean.  I have always felt that non-academic poetry readers and even non-poetry readers have gotten more out of my poetry than academics have.  Curiously enough, many academics have called my poetry “intellectual”, as if it were some sort of philosophy broken into lines (a philosophy they don’t understand, therefore the condescending label “intellectual”) . . . but non-academic types just take the images and phrases as they are presented and without the thick lenses of academic upbringing and theoretical prejudice . . . and this has always proved much more effective.

In line with this strange phenomenon is this experience I had as a student.  When I was an undergrad (albeit a 26-27 year old undergrad), my poetry was pretty rough . . . but with (in my opinion) some reasonably profound and flowing moments.  My peers at the time were, of course, barely-educated undergrads, many of them 19 or 20 years old.  

These peers were extremely favorable when it came to my poems.  The feedback I got from them was distinctly positive . . . although not especially sophisticated.  Still, they recognized that I knew what I was doing and they admired that.

Over the next few years, as I matriculated and moved from intro to intermediate to advanced and senior/graduate level workshops, my writing (in my opinion) improved tremendously.  I started to refine my techniques and develop my voice.  I made fewer "young poet" mistakes.  I started to pull off my more ambitious stunts with an increasing sense of grace.

But as I got better, my classmates got more and more PoBiz education in them, and every semester the comments I received in workshops got stupider.  By the time of my senior seminar workshop, a few people (and the professor) in my class were openly hostile and resentful to me.  Whereas once, my peers were very supportive, I found that the ones who stuck out the poetry writing major into the senior year (not the same ones who were supportive, of course) were brutally competitive.

Many of these students worked on the school's lit mags (we actually had two or three for some reason) . . . and they didn't like the fact that I had won a couple undergrad awards for my writing or that I was pushing the boundaries of what they felt comfortable with in their own writing.  It was like the foet cliques were already starting to form on the "infant" level.

Most of these folks weren't really smart enough to figure out how to criticize my poetry (credibly), but the sense of "shunning" had definitely begun.

When I went to grad school at U-Mass, it was completely ridiculous.  The other students just behaved like I was threatening their well-being with my very presence in class.  They were edgy, paranoid, and downright belligerent . . . not to my poetry . . . they still had no idea what to do with that, but to me personally.  Their "wrath" was directed entirely at my person.  In grad school, no one would even comment on my poems.

But, they could make neither hide nor hair out of my poems.  It was like I was writing in a foreign language.  But some of the same poems were one's I wrote first drafts of when I was 26 and 27 in "Intro to Poetry" . . . and the freshman understood and appreciated them more than these supposedly sophisticated and highly-educated graduate students.

It was truly bizarre.  But in the end, I had to conclude that the writing program system was effectively de-educating its students, destroying their ability to read and react spontaneously to anything except “The Product”.  I'm sure other programs would have been better, but still, I bet my experience is not unique by a long shot.

Yours,
Matt
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Ed Dupree
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2006, 04:17:36 PM »

Quote from: "Matt"
... the reader will determine whether this beauty can be found and whether it was worth the effort of looking. . .  I want the flavor of the poem to jump through its façade and startle me, move me.



That's really all I'm saying, Matt. I want to find out if my new poem can move a reader who already loves some of the poetry I love. So I show it, and then listen and ask questions. I think of poetry as drama, and I feel like a playwrite sitting in the back row checking out the early audience response.

I heard something years ago about "reader-response theory", but wasn't interested in reading the stuff. It's commonsensical to me to want to know if my poem gets feeling across, esp. after I've busted ass trying to dig down to something that's hot for me. If I go to the trouble of finding it and putting it into the poem, I sure as hell want the reader to be able get it out at the other end.


In my mind none of this has anything to do with the "workshop" ethic.


Ed
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Bugzita
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2006, 06:50:55 PM »

Matt,

You're not really meandering from the original topic; your Bly anecdote simply confirms why you look askance at outside criticism, paid or otherwise.

I see exactly where you, Ed, are coming from, though I argued with you a bit. If your work can garner the kind of response you had in mind, then that's good information. If not, then that's information, too, maybe valuable, maybe not. It's always the writer's call, though, because, ultimately, you decide what to keep, what to change, what to cut.

Yeah, I studied all the approaches to reading a text: deconstuction, marxist, feminist, formalist, historical, psychological, reader based, yada, yada, yada. Ed, you're right about academia academinizing common sense, almost folk wisdom approaches.

In my opinion, first draft writing is almost always writer based/response text. How can it not be? I feel so exhiliarated during the first draft process, but, then, during revisions, I begin thinking about my reader and how I can appeal to the reader while retaining the integrity of my text. It's a fine line. Still don't know if it can be done...

Matt, you're probably better off being kicked off the Jungian board; it means that you're questioning the status quo, and that's huge threat to the establishment and to the old and young fogies alike. The establishment always seeks to silence those who question accepted norms and label questioners as heretics. You, and others like you, represent a threat to their cushy viewpoints and positions. The fact that your former board would ban someone for "differing views" shows that these people are moribund, back-slapping glad-handers. Who needs 'em?

You and people like you will be the Galileos, Einsteins, and Shakespeares of our time. Others will simply be your followers.

Bugz
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« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2006, 09:21:31 AM »

Quote from: "Bugzita"
Matt, you're probably better off being kicked off the Jungian board; it means that you're questioning the status quo, and that's huge threat to the establishment and to the old and young fogies alike. The establishment always seeks to silence those who question accepted norms and label questioners as heretics. You, and others like you, represent a threat to their cushy viewpoints and positions. The fact that your former board would ban someone for "differing views" shows that these people are moribund, back-slapping glad-handers. Who needs 'em?


That's the truth!

Quote from: "Bugzita"
You and people like you will be the Galileos, Einsteins, and Shakespeares of our time. Others will simply be your followers.


 :oops:  :lol:

My main concern for the time being is to not end up languishing in a gutter.  For every genius that "breaks through" there are thousands of ravers like me that are still puzzling out how to survive at all.  My personal "forays" into the "real world" usually end at a brick wall.  I'm not sure if these walls are self-imposed or imposed from outside.  A little of both, I suppose.

So far, the only genius solution I've devised to this problem is to carry a large sledgehammer everywhere I go.

But this technique has its limits.  Just look at John Henry!  But at least he got a song written about him . . . and that's always cool  Cheesy !

Thanks, Bugz!

Yours,
Matt
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Monday Love
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« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2006, 12:31:58 PM »

Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
Quote from: "Matt"
... the reader will determine whether this beauty can be found and whether it was worth the effort of looking. . .  I want the flavor of the poem to jump through its façade and startle me, move me.



That's really all I'm saying, Matt. I want to find out if my new poem can move a reader who already loves some of the poetry I love. So I show it, and then listen and ask questions. I think of poetry as drama, and I feel like a playwrite sitting in the back row checking out the early audience response.

I heard something years ago about "reader-response theory", but wasn't interested in reading the stuff. It's commonsensical to me to want to know if my poem gets feeling across, esp. after I've busted ass trying to dig down to something that's hot for me. If I go to the trouble of finding it and putting it into the poem, I sure as hell want the reader to be able get it out at the other end.


In my mind none of this has anything to do with the "workshop" ethic.


Ed



Ed,

You are absolutely right that one should care how readers respond to one’s work.   And you are right that others’ suggestions can help, and there’s no way I can prove that they cannot help.  

There are three stages in poetry: the first tentative steps, the development period, and then the finished product.  The first requires encouragement, the second, self-examination and self-study, and then, in the third phase, ‘honest’ feedback from others—whatever that is.

The reader is crucial, but the question is, who is the best reader?  I love your idea of the dramatic element, the poet as playwright testing an audience, and I want to examine that more closely.  Can you imagine what sort of feedback an asbstract painter would get from an audience who strongly prefers representative art?  What sort of feedback would the abstract artist receive that would be helpful?  

"I like those colors."  "It sort of looks like my dog."  These might be nice responses.  Other responses might range from "my 3 year old could do better" or "did an elephant do this?" to "This is a joke, right?" to "You suck."  None of these responses would be helpful, because they would define each member of the audience in a crude manner in the eyes of the painter, and thus the painter would be 'off the hook' whether any of the responses were 'honest' or 'genuine' or not.  

So we see here a situation where ' honest' or 'genuine' responses are subverted by rigid, pre-existant expectations solidified by art history and such; would the 'learned' response, citing other artists and eras be any more genuine?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  What if someone said, you need 10% less blue and 12% more yellow?  Would this advice be taken seriously, and should it be, or is it possible to ever know if such advice is valid?

What I'm trying to illustrate here is the lack of real communication which exists in art criticism, not only because of the very nature of the art industry, but because of the very nature of human communication.  Even if a critic is sincere, how do we even know if the critique itself is valid or sincere?  The painter would probably be able to detect whether those looking at his painting liked it or not, just based on body language, a feeling he gets from what they seem to be feeling, something beyond words, perhaps.  But even here it would be difficult to tell, especially if the person were just standing there looking and not showing any particularly strong emotion.

But this leads to your idea of the drama.  

I once gave a poem of mine, a brief, moody lyric, to a young woman; she read it, and she handed it back to me with tears in her eyes.  That was all the critique I needed, all the reader-response I wanted.  Nothing more needed to be said.  Now, I did not know this woman very well; perhaps she was emotionally unstable.  Perhaps such a 'critique' is highly superficial.  This brings us to the idea of comedy: all the comic playwright needs is to hear people laugh.

But other sorts of audience-response are more difficult to read.  If a friend reads your poem and says, "That's good, I liked it," what does that mean?  If someone says, "This reminds me of Ashbery's work, or, Keats' work," should one take this as a compliment, or a complaint?  If someone gives you a close reading, detailing every nuance and associative gesture you put in the poem for you, is this a sign of success, or would this finally also be an artificial reading?  What if the close reading reveals metaphoric connections you as the author hadn't seen?  What if a dense close reading ends with  "a little busy, it lacks unity, I don't really get what the poem is doing," should this spoil all the things which the reader did see in the poem? What if someone tells you, "If I were in the right mood, I could see myself enjoying this, but, you know what, I'm not really in the right frame of mind to enjoy this right now," would this strike the poet as positive, or negative criticism?

The poem is not a play.  It does not necessarily make people laugh or  cry or sigh or stand up and cheer.  Are the sorts of emotions which music and drama and novels produce in an audience legitimate for poems, or not?  Are the feelings we get watching a Shakespeare play caused by the poetry, the plot, or both?  Can we separate our crude emotions from finer ones, and does poetry belong to the latter, or should poetry not create emotions in us at all?

So, who is the best reader?  And what should they feel, if anything?  And how do we know they are honest?  How do we know they are not  responding exactly as they should to your poem, but because they have no experience with that sort of response--since you as a poet are creating a new response-category--they feel nothing, or think they feel nothing, and thus do not like your poem at all?  Or, is the whole idea that a person should 'feel nothing' a lie, and, in fact, all art should make us feel emotions?  Or are strong emotions only for the groundlings, a lower order of audience?

Who is the true reader?

How honestly do people respond to art?  Is it all just a phony business anyway?  The theater goes dark, a man in a costume sings a jolly or a scary song.  Is that all art finally is?  A spectacle?  Is all the high-brow talk on art finally empty?

Who is the reader?

Who is the best reader?


Monday
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« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2006, 12:40:31 PM »

Anyone know the work of Philo T. Farnsworth? Many people don't know who he is, yet our culture has changed dramatically because of him.

Maybe not always for the best.  :roll:

Bugz
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« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2006, 04:13:51 PM »

Quote from: "Monday Love"
Quote from: "Ed Dupree"
Quote from: "Matt"
... the reader will determine whether this beauty can be found and whether it was worth the effort of looking. . .  I want the flavor of the poem to jump through its façade and startle me, move me.



That's really all I'm saying, Matt. I want to find out if my new poem can move a reader who already loves some of the poetry I love. So I show it, and then listen and ask questions. I think of poetry as drama, and I feel like a playwrite sitting in the back row checking out the early audience response.

I heard something years ago about "reader-response theory", but wasn't interested in reading the stuff. It's commonsensical to me to want to know if my poem gets feeling across, esp. after I've busted ass trying to dig down to something that's hot for me. If I go to the trouble of finding it and putting it into the poem, I sure as hell want the reader to be able get it out at the other end.


In my mind none of this has anything to do with the "workshop" ethic.


Ed



Ed,

You are absolutely right that one should care how readers respond to one’s work.   And you are right that others’ suggestions can help, and there’s no way I can prove that they cannot help.  

There are three stages in poetry: the first tentative steps, the development period, and then the finished product.  The first requires encouragement, the second, self-examination and self-study, and then, in the third phase, ‘honest’ feedback from others—whatever that is.

The reader is crucial, but the question is, who is the best reader?  I love your idea of the dramatic element, the poet as playwright testing an audience, and I want to examine that more closely.  Can you imagine what sort of feedback an asbstract painter would get from an audience who strongly prefers representative art?  What sort of feedback would the abstract artist receive that would be helpful?  

"I like those colors."  "It sort of looks like my dog."  These might be nice responses.  Other responses might range from "my 3 year old could do better" or "did an elephant do this?" to "This is a joke, right?" to "You suck."  None of these responses would be helpful, because they would define each member of the audience in a crude manner in the eyes of the painter, and thus the painter would be 'off the hook' whether any of the responses were 'honest' or 'genuine' or not.  

So we see here a situation where ' honest' or 'genuine' responses are subverted by rigid, pre-existant expectations solidified by art history and such; would the 'learned' response, citing other artists and eras be any more genuine?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  What if someone said, you need 10% less blue and 12% more yellow?  Would this advice be taken seriously, and should it be, or is it possible to ever know if such advice is valid?

What I'm trying to illustrate here is the lack of real communication which exists in art criticism, not only because of the very nature of the art industry, but because of the very nature of human communication.  Even is a critic is sincere, how do we even know if the critique itself is valid or sincere?  The painter would probably be able to detect whether those looking at his painting liked it or not, just based on body language, a feeling he gets from what they seem to be feeling, something beyond words, perhaps.  But even here it would be difficult to tell, especially if the person was just standing there looking and not showing any particularly strong emotion.



But as I was saying, my ideal (or at least preferred) reader is one whom I know for a fact loves at least some of the poetry I love. Presumably your abstract painter loves abstract painting, and in my model of the situation he already knows his audience does too. Also he doesn't rely on the audience's body language etc., because they come right out and tell him they love the painting. And he knows them, as I know my chosen reader and therefore trust the sincerity of his or her report (not critique; I'm talking much simpler & bigger emotion, sadness, happiness, fear, anger). The problem of knowing another's mind in great detail with absolute certainty doesn't really apply here. Also, I'm not looking for advice on adding a dash of blue or cutting out some yellow, I'm looking for the light in the reader's eyes and and the sound of his or her voice saying "I LOVE it!" or something equally wonderful. Wouldn't the response of your reader with tears in her eyes have meant a lot more to you if you'd known her well and known she was not pathological but simply crazy about the poets you were crazy about.?

Quote
The poem is not a play.  It does not necessarily make people laugh or  cry or sigh or stand up and cheer.


But I want it to. I've never stood up and cheered on reading a poem, but I've done those other things with a short list of my all-time faves, and I want readers to do that when they read my poems, dern it.



Quote
Can we separate our crude emotions from finer ones, and does poetry belong to the latter...?


Give me the cruder ones every time. (The finer are nice too, of course.)


Quote
How do we know they are not  responding exactly as they should to your poem, but because they have no experience with that sort of response--since you as a poet are creating a new response-category--they feel nothing, or think they feel nothing, and thus do not like your poem at all?


If my poem is creating a new response category, that's gravy, or grace-notes, and the poem still fails unless it delivers the good old meat & potatoes.

Quote
In fact, [should] all art....make us feel emotions?



Yes. That's axiom number one, for me.  



Quote
Or are strong emotions only for the groundlings, a lower order of audience?


I hope not. If they are, I'll be a groundling.



Quote
Is all the high-brow talk on art finally empty?


No, I don't think so. I enjoy some of it. But I'm not an aesthetic philosopher, the way you are (and a very good one).


cheers,
Ed
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« Reply #27 on: December 09, 2006, 12:53:42 AM »

I agree the reader is important. Why else write?

Getting back to publication trends, I would agree that much of published poetry (books, and in mags) is mostly the same everywhere, reflecting the "McDonaldization" of creative writing via the explosion of writing programs across the U.S. And that many contests, certain editors and all cronyism practices stink.

Speaking of explosion, has anyone mentioned writing conferences? Man, big money there, plus many offer manuscript critiques, too, for a hefty sum. Insanity, is it not.

I'd like to point out that many book contests and magazines, at least the bigger ones, rely on first readers: I'm a non-academic and have served (paid) for a few years as a first reader for an honest poetry book prize contest that shall remain unnamed. Likely I will serve again for this contest, because they receive a LOT of manuscripts. (Hey--I like to be paid!)

Okay, what can I say? Only that I'm just one person with my own certain tastes. I also have a bullsh*t detector, and am put off by pretentious writing, workshopeze, condescending, overly-intellectual, etc. The manuscripts I've chosen to send on to 2nd readers (1-2 out of 40-50; no one else reads the ones I reject!) have caught and held my attention for one reason or another. I really admire these manuscripts--usually nothing like what I write--and almost always wish I had written it! Unfortunately, none of my "winners" have won this contest. What this has taught me is that 1.) there's a helluva lot of good writers out there, and 2.) your chances of winning are similar to buying a lottery ticket. (Okay, that's probably an exaggeration; let's just say your chances are similar to gambling.)

I occasionally teach creative writing to middle and h.s. students, but what I do is mostly trick them to think outside themselves via certain prompts. Creativity is endlessly fascinating. I'm no theory expert, but seems to me it's a result of endless curiosity, attention to detail, plus a certain amount of luck.

Sometimes I just think poets (myself included) take themselves way too seriously.

Keep up the good work!
--T
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Monday Love
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« Reply #28 on: December 09, 2006, 08:47:12 PM »

Quote from: "Tweety"
I agree the reader is important. Why else write?

Getting back to publication trends, I would agree that much of published poetry (books, and in mags) is mostly the same everywhere, reflecting the "McDonaldization" of creative writing via the explosion of writing programs across the U.S. And that many contests, certain editors and all cronyism practices stink.

Speaking of explosion, has anyone mentioned writing conferences? Man, big money there, plus many offer manuscript critiques, too, for a hefty sum. Insanity, is it not.

I'd like to point out that many book contests and magazines, at least the bigger ones, rely on first readers: I'm a non-academic and have served (paid) for a few years as a first reader for an honest poetry book prize contest that shall remain unnamed. Likely I will serve again for this contest, because they receive a LOT of manuscripts. (Hey--I like to be paid!)

Okay, what can I say? Only that I'm just one person with my own certain tastes. I also have a bullsh*t detector, and am put off by pretentious writing, workshopeze, condescending, overly-intellectual, etc. The manuscripts I've chosen to send on to 2nd readers (1-2 out of 40-50; no one else reads the ones I reject!) have caught and held my attention for one reason or another. I really admire these manuscripts--usually nothing like what I write--and almost always wish I had written it! Unfortunately, none of my "winners" have won this contest. What this has taught me is that 1.) there's a helluva lot of good writers out there, and 2.) your chances of winning are similar to buying a lottery ticket. (Okay, that's probably an exaggeration; let's just say your chances are similar to gambling.)

I occasionally teach creative writing to middle and h.s. students, but what I do is mostly trick them to think outside themselves via certain prompts. Creativity is endlessly fascinating. I'm no theory expert, but seems to me it's a result of endless curiosity, attention to detail, plus a certain amount of luck.

Sometimes I just think poets (myself included) take themselves way too seriously.

Keep up the good work!
--T


Tweety,

So you are that secretive first reader who weeds out the bulk of the submissions.  You're the grim reaper, the one all poets truly fear, the anonymous executioner with the mask, taking your pay.  Wow.  It must be thrilling.  And to be entrusted with that task!  You are one of the most important people in po-biz, second only to the real top foets, although I believe you when you say you are innocent and work for an honest contest.  May I ask how  you found the job?  Did you just see an ad in the paper?

Monday
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« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2006, 04:10:41 PM »

I'm a published local writer outside the academy--one of 15-25 first readers for this contest (dep. on # entries)--and they asked me.

That kind of power is actually sort of scary when you think about it.. My point here is that so much depends on the opinions/tastes/preferences of the first reader, whoever (whomever?) he/she may be. From what I can tell, this is true for most lit mag submissions, too.

I don't consider myself to be a poetry "expert"! Certainly I believe my judgments to be sound, I am honest, and I have no reason so far to question the honesty of this contest. When I select my "winners" I must explain why, briefly; one of my selections was a finalist, but I only learned that by chance in talking to the editor.

The other thing I've learned from reading contest mss. is that right now I could never win a contest. Why? Because I write poems, not books. With so many good individual poems in ms. after ms., you start to realize that there must be something else that must happen for you to distinguish between all of those mss., and for me it's usually because there is some sort of loose-knit unity to the body of work. In addition to a factor I can only explain as: WOW. But that's just my opinion, and if there are 19 other readers, I'm sure you would find that many reasons for their judgment. It's not a perfect system by any means.

These are blind submissions, but for some reason (which has never been explained to me and which every year I protest that this is too much information/too much influence for first readers) they allow the publishing credits page to be included. [Disclosure: I don't protest so much that I do not accept pay!] Ever since the first year when I noticed a few mss. with super-impressive publishing credits (Poetry, New Yorker, Atlantic, etc. etc. etc.), I've started setting that page aside unread. But then, of course, after I've made my selections and go back through, I always wonder what I missed in those with these super-impressive credits, and must re-read, re-read, but as it turns out that has never changed my mind.

So, that's probably more than you wanted to know, but I just thought it should be pointed out: contests are a gamble, for any number of reasons. Good luck!

--T
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