k: So I was reading some older emails to put together a couple of posts for po’et’ship yesterday and that got me thinking about poetry critics and the you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours society that poetry lives in at the moment.
I don’t think this is the way poetry has always functioned in the media and in criticism. I think that there are plenty of examples of poets dissecting and understanding and even denouncing fellow poets’ work. That isn’t happening today, or at least there isn’t enough of it happening today. There are a few people who bear all and tell people when they do or don’t like something. There are forums for poets where you’re invited to post something specifically for harsher review. So maybe the problem is more with blogging? Or with those uber gracious rejection letters that say “hey, you’re stuffs really great, but it’s not *exactly* what we’re looking for”.
The main issue lies in the lap of blogger though. i think that there’s an all-to-easy to see reason for it as well; we only read the blogs of poets we really like. Why would we go about reading and criticizing someone’s poetry that we dislike? We wouldn’t. Simple. I gave out plenty of reviews of poems I didn’t like on the critical poet forums, but I only ever tell a poet of one of the many blogs I read that I dislike something if I feel it undermines or ruins the poem (and typically, I’ll only get into it if there is an easy fix that I can see, other time I will just leave the poem un commented on [[[disclaimer: this doesn’t mean that every poem I don’t leave a comment for is one that I dislike]]])
I don’t know that there’s any solution to the overwhelming niceties of blogger, but I thought I’d bring it up for discussion.
a: I think you bring up several good points. I agree that criticism hasn't always functioned as such, although I am sure there was always the risk of getting personally acquainted with the artist and consequently jeopardizing the "objectivity" of the criticism--hence the power of "networking". And I think that is precisely what is happening today with blogging, the formation of personal networks that limit criticism. As anonymous as blogging can be, I think most people don't use it as such: we end up knowing each other as individuals. But I hasten to point out that that is especially the case in our kind of "amateur" blogging. And within this model, I think you bring up another very observant point, that when we don't like something we tend not to comment rather than comment negatively. And that is a very prevalent, though more difficult-to-read, form of "criticism". Yes, that doesn't mean that every post we don't comment on we don't like, but I would argue that it is more likely than not the case. Again, as you pointed out, there are different sorts of "don't like": there's the "fixable" don't-like and the "I can't relate to" don't-like, and everything in between. And within the limits of our amateur status are the privileges of not having to read or comment if we don't care to. Which is why we end up reading what we like, because we are doing it for our own enjoyment ultimately, rather than out of duty for a magazine, say, or "the good of poetry" in general. I would hope that that isn't the way things operate in poetry programs, for example (though I wouldn't know; but I don't think so); or journals (even though it seems there is such a scarcity of poetry criticism compared to the abundance of its production). And it might be that amateur blogs simply aren't the most appropriate forum for critiquing poetry, that they are more of format where the critique is by "voting with the feet" (or rather the finger, in this case)--even though, first, I don't think such a populist system of valuation is very valuable (I do tend to be an elitist when it comes to the arts); and second, I think that a highly "influentiable" method. What do you think?
k: To the topic at hand then: (this is good, while we always have other things to talk about, I like to get my brain in gear and think critically about my pastime—I guess it justifies why I do some much of it).
No wait, an aside first. I have put up a poll on my blog (right below my profile, can’t miss it). What do you think? I said I was going to do it. As soon as poetisphere and poets101 are up and running again, then I’m starting my campaign for Billy as Mayor. I feel like, he does so much to bring blogging poets together that we all ought to do something for him. I think I’ll make a banner for people to put on their blogs and websites like a badge of support, or is that too tacky? I am going to have fun with it. It’s not serious, so why not take it a little bit over the edge? Hehe.
Okay, to blogging poets and criticism then… yes. Agree with you completely. That’s pretty much the end of the conversation, isn’t it? I mean, unless you invite people to criticize a poem of yours, people probably won’t. We read who we like, and we don’t speak out against poems of those people as an act of some sort of social obligation (aka politeness).
You also bring up the matter of blogging as being anonymous/not anonymous. We’re friends, we text message each other. That’s anonymity completely broken down and ground to an electronic pulp. I hardly knew Yasmin a day before she started telling me about her love life (which, somehow, was in no way awkward). Not that I think I’d recognize her if I saw her on the street, not right away, but I know where she is, why she is, what she’s doing (am starting to sound creepy, hehe) because the barriers were instantly knocked away. I get the feeling that this is happening all over. Scott Glassman, another example for me… he’s opened up completely in emails without any prompting and now I feel as though I know every motivation behind every line of every poem of his. I can’t criticize that; how could I? It would be as if I were criticizing my own work—for which I didn’t have to do any of the work.
Am going to go make that banner/button now… or watch doctor who… or both.
a: So, we're back to our former momentum? :) See, with these e-mails, when I'm trying to respond to more than one e-mail in one, I never know where to start or how to go about it: earliest to latest? other way round? (I tend to dwell on the insignificant.) But what really amazes me is, how do you keep up with everyone?
First, Billy's campaign. I have actually already voted for him on your new poll thingy. (I was vote #2). I don't think it's over the top at all. I think it is quite gracious of you, and I am sure it'll mean a lot to him. He does, after all, put a lot of effort into this whole poetry blogging thing. And people have a choice to put the buttons up on their sites or not. I don't think you can be tacky even if you tried!
Regarding that anonymity thing, I have a question for you: do you find that lifting that veil of anonymity ruins the experience of reading that person's poetry for you? Or heightens it? Or not affect it at all? (You know, that whole question of magic and autobiography that we approached before.)
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more to come on the matter of audience and critique later. stay tuned!