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03 October 2002 @ 08:02 pm
Doc, on Criticism (Uncut to Grab Your Attention)  
I'm not talking about anything that involves the words "hegemony," post-*, "orientalism," or "deconstruction." This is the kind where the artist is still alive.

Those of us that have a creative bent - art, music, words, programs, etc. often open our work to the criticism of others. Some of us have it as a hobby, therapy, maybe even a job someday. This is for you - I don't know what people think about criticism- especially of their own work- so I thought I'd share some thoughts. About what happens when people criticize my work, anyway. Since I work mostly in poetry, I'll stick to that.

First off, and we all know this, you don't have to stroke my ego. Especially the phrase "that's really good"- which often means "very good" but more usually "despite everything it says to me, I will tell you that it's good", or "I like it in spite of itself." People, in general, think that they know nothing about poetry, or they know everything. It is not a secret language, inasmuch as the poet makes it or doesn't make it a secret language. If there are names for poetic devices that you don't know, it doesn't matter - a reader shouldn't have to have a PhD to read a poem. I stopped caring about when I use a simile and when I use a metaphor a long time ago. I still know the difference (because I'm an INTJ Grammar nazi) but it doesn't trip me up. I don't want it to trip you up.

My goal in this is not to do it for myself. For myself is nice, and I glow when I think I've done something really well, but that's not the primary reason I do it. I want the Bohemian Ideals: Freedom, Truth, Beauty and Love. I want to serve the ideals with poetry.

Poetry is about connecting with other people the ideas that defy words. Poetry is 198 Proof Language. Poetry is a report from the soul. Poetry is about life, death, the funny, and the hey-hey. Poetry is a lot of things, and it isn't always words.

Do you dig?

What do I want from criticism? This - I want to know how it makes you feel. I want to know if it speaks to you. I want to know if you trip up at certain points. I want to know when you can see the scaffolding. I want to know when it says something I've said before - when it says something that somebody else has. I want to know who it reminds you of. I want to know what it makes you smell. I want to know if it moves you - if your world is different, even in the smallest way, because of it.

In other words, poetry is to be experienced, and not read. If it doesn't make you react in some way, I have failed. Even if it makes you go "hmm" or you cry for an hour or you plant a tree or you shoot that damn Ramsey kid or you go smoke.

If you write poetry, I hope this carries something of what I'm looking for across. And there's a difference between critiquing a work as a poet, and critiquing a work as a reader. For me, tell me the reader part before you talk shop, if you don't mind. We get so hung up on the shop-talk.

So, that's what I want. I may never get it from anybody, because it's too much to ask for from anybody. I don't expect it from you. But a lot of people don't know what to say. It's a start.

In the spirit of mutual satisfaction, What do you want from criticism?
Current Music: The World Is Not Enough-Garbage-The World Is Not Enough CD
Gayle Madwinqueerbychoice on October 3rd, 2002 07:08 pm (UTC)
I usually want mainly to know how my writing made someone else feel.

I'm sometimes also interested in "I think you should change this to say this instead."

The most horrible and totally useless destructive criticism I ever got was about eight years ago, from my then-best-friend, when she told me, "I think you should stop trying to communicate a message that you feel strongly about. I think you should avoid writing about things you feel strongly about and avoid trying to communicate any message."


Don't ever tell anybody that.
❀✯ L.E. Arroway ✭✈: featherlyght on October 3rd, 2002 07:29 pm (UTC)
Just enough to improve my work, but not so much that I want to ever quit it. (I have my mercury, mars, and sun all in conjunction. I will want to fight with my critics about why *I* am right and *they* are wrong, because if I do not, I have let my Self be attacked without defense. There are some things that actually can be elucidated by astrology, I find.)

I want people to "get it", but I also sometimes purely want mystery, to wrap words up so tightly that nobody can unwrap them and find what it is I'm *really* talking about. Most of the time I want words to be the finger pointing at the moon, though, and I really do want people to see that big pretty thing up there in the sky, because it's well worth seeing.

Mechanics bore me. How it "should" be done bores me. I know I'm not that good on average, but every once in a while I'll come out with something golden, something that could not have happened by being obsessed with all the things that "real writers" become obsessed with. I generally don't rewrite, revise, even respell. Once in a while I'll add or remove or change one word, a preposition, an article. Mechanical criticism will usually be ignored, often because the mechanics are either (a) how I wanted it in the first place or (b) so sloppy and spur-of-the-moment that there was no further goal. Mechanical criticism is why I quit Banshee.

Mainly I'm too damn stubborn to take traditional criticism. I figure I did my job if the thoughts people come up with in response are the thoughts I was trying to prod. If they start going off in some other direction, I know I was unsuccessful.

ninja in the shadowsseiryu_16 on October 3rd, 2002 07:58 pm (UTC)
Word word WORD
Sing it brotha, preach it loud and CLEAR.
::flicks on lighter and holds it high, swaying from side-to-side::
Fling any poetry my way, and I'll tell you straight-up what I think. And it won't just be "it's really good." If it IS good, I'll tell you why (and if it sucks I'll tell you why too, but let's concentrate on the positives ::wink::)
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on October 3rd, 2002 11:09 pm (UTC)
You messed with the bull- hence, the horns
Here's the list of poems what Doc wrote, for whatever purposes you have in mind: ( I will regret having said that later, I know it)

Leonard's Arthropods, On plumbing
Thought Pollution
The Man in the Next Office
The Problem of Some Feathers
What I Couldn't Tell You at the Deposition
Dorn Sonnet I wrote in High School
The Study of Angry Solitude
Stupid Love
Math poem, functions of life series entry 2 - hyperbola

PS - I'm not trying to guilt anybody into going back and doing this thing- I know you'll do what you have time to do / want to do (in whatever order is right for you). I'm just, as they say, fishing.
atelierlune on October 3rd, 2002 09:06 pm (UTC)
I dig.

::snaps fingers like a lousy long-haired beatnik::

What I really want from people critiquing my work is exactly what's good and what's bad. It isn't that I don't appreciate it when someone says "this is good, I like it", or "this isn't really my taste", because there are places for both of those things. . . . . they're just not specific, you know? Was there a line that spoiled everything? A phrase that just made the whole poem? Should it have ended two lines sooner? That sort of thing.

I gots to know WHY. If nothing else, to refine my voice for the future.
Abra SWcloudscudding on October 4th, 2002 08:52 am (UTC)
I want the page to bleed until it is washed in the blood and reborn purer.

Or something.

I hate when someone says, "It's nice," or "I liked it," and doesn't go beyond that. Such comments are useless. They feed my ego a bit, dry scraps of praise to match the half-cup water of fame I drink from. If someone likes it, I want to know why. If someone thinks it sucks, I want to know why. Constructive criticism is, I believe, the term I'm looking for. I want line-by-line, or at least paragraph-by-paragraph, commentary on my writing. I want to know what worked and what didn't and what just meant that I was clearly on crack when I wrote it. I want to know when the reader laughed out loud. I want to know when the reader frowned.

Yes, I want to devour the world. Why?
ninja in the shadowsseiryu_16 on October 4th, 2002 02:53 pm (UTC)
You Always Get What's Coming...
...when you ask an English major to look at your poetry... and one specializing in MODERN works, at that. Well, have at you then.
Doc. You are an accomplished poet and I mean that. I've read a lot of things written by students, and most of it is sadly underclass or bombastic, hyperliterized attempts to make insignificant moments seem huge and glossed. Your poetry doesn't just sidestep this: at its best, it gives all that the finger.
Your forte, I think, is the fact that you are one witty muthafucka, and your coupling of intriguing images and vibrant verbs ("eyelashes crash together, / ...like kamikaze moths") are the veritable glowing dots we eat along the way to the big dot that is the poem's meaning (once we've got that, we can get the ghosts, or 'critics,' until our notiriety runs out, leaving Annie hopelessly stranded in a preposterous metaphor once again). But in short, you really seem to have points in your works where you delibrately include said intriguing snippets that you seem to *know* is going to grab the viewers eye like one of those huge fucking magnets picks up a junked car. Or something.
Now, gently, the flaws. The problem with poetry is the lovely parabolic shape it has, the exponential slope it takes on from bad to good to truly great poetry. You're past good already. The only problem is that the path to "great" is a motherfucker. In my opinion, even the poets we remember first and best were able to keep that steep grade for long once they got there. So no fretting allowed. This is just to let you know why it is so hard to really get one's claws into something big that needs to be fixed - also because we are commonly taught, when we learn about poetry, solely why it is GOOD... BAD is never really mentioned.
Punctuation. That's-a one. And this veers a bit into the nit-picky, but since my definition of poetry is "saying the most with the least," every little bit matters. In many ways your poems mimic human speech, and that mood can be kept. However, for as much as I love them, things like commas really don't appear all that much in standard human vernaculars. We deal a lot with hyphens, elipses, and the like, and even periods themselves are rare: I'd even venture a guess that the only thing that typically stays the same from speech to writing is the ever-helpful question mark. Now, reimagining punctuation in poetry is damn frustrating, and don't I know it (fuck, even Emily Dickinson seemed to run the hell away from it... all those hyphens and exclamation points were HERS, not the publishers, to be sure!). But when it's done carefully, it can help smooth out the poem and make it that much better.
I've been going on for way too long now, but trust me man, you want more ideas, I'll give them to you. Just e-mail me with one you want me to look at in particular, and I'll repeat all this process with more minutae. Like I said, you asked for it ::wink::
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on October 4th, 2002 03:59 pm (UTC)