Evaluative Criticism

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?
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CalebPerry
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Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:06 am

One of my favorite songs of Joni Mitchell's is "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow". If you look up the lyrics, you'll see that they are not entirely intelligible. So I have at least a little tolerance for lyrics/poetry that aren't entirely clear.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
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Leaf
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Fri Aug 05, 2022 9:13 pm

Thanks, JJ, Caleb, MacPhil,

Yes, different strokes for different folks, JJ, why not. Thanks for your kind words, Caleb, and I'm glad you like 'spectrum', MacPhil! I like the word too :)

Of course the morphine isn't great for being particularly sharp. This is why I generally feel, in the context of critique, as though most poets have a range of pointy tools at their disposal, while I'm just brandishing a feather duster, on the whole :lol:

Great song, Caleb :D

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Macavity
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Sat Aug 06, 2022 7:02 am

I'm just brandishing a feather duster,
:lol: Though not true! Seth would often deliver the one line insight that tweaked a poem from a forum post to a published poem! Forensic critique can strangle a poem.

cheers

Phil
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Leaf
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Sat Aug 06, 2022 9:14 pm

Well, ta muchly, MacPhil, lol. I think I remember Seth; is he away at the mo? Totes agree about forensic critique. At its worst, the poem is all but forgotten in the discussion :shock: :lol:

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JJHenderson
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Sun Aug 07, 2022 2:34 am

Hi Caleb,

Sorry if you found my posts irritating; I'm just a verbose critic and it's easier for me to write/post what comes to mind rather than try to edit/filter myself. I don't think you or anyone else is under any obligation to be open-minded in terms of what art they like; having personal tastes is fine. I just think it's generally a good thing to be accepting of different tastes. Trust me, I'm like you in wishing that many poetry journals valued the kinds of poetry we like to write, but it is what it is and sour grapes aren't a good look and don't change anything. I've learned that the hard way.

I fully sympathize with poetry being something that makes me happy, though I would also say that, as someone who does question every assumption I have, that questioning has also made me happy, or at least happier than I used to be. A lot of misery comes from our being too rigid and trying to hold on to things and not adapting to the world around us. I'm not saying we should just blithely accept everything, but it's important to pick our battles.
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Leaf
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Sun Aug 07, 2022 9:22 pm

Just to say, I recommend popping across to the Ezines, Magazines and Publications area of PAT. MacPhil does a great job of keeping this up to date, and I'm sure there's something to suit both of you. Why not just give it a go? :)

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JJHenderson
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Tue Aug 09, 2022 1:50 am

Hi Fliss,

I may have a look over some of them. I don't know if I've told you this before, but my whole thing with publishing is that it always seemed a lot of work for (at least to me) very little reward. I'd trade a thousand people reading my poem for one person whom I respect reading my poem that I can discuss it with. It reminds me of what James Merrill once said: "Think what one has to do to get a mass audience. I'd rather have one perfect reader. Why dynamite the pond in order to catch that single silver carp?" There may also be something of the snob left in me to the extent that I know so many of my favorite poets published in journals like Poetry, American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, New England Review, Kenyon Review, etc. and if I can't make it into them--and the odds of that are very unlikely--then it would be more trouble than it's worth (again, to me) to publish elsewhere.
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Tue Aug 09, 2022 7:46 am

Hi JJ

Submission for ezines takes between ten and thirty minutes, depending on the submission guidelines. An idea is to set up genre files children/fantasy/relationship/humour/short etc. Always keep a record of what is sent, to who and when. Avoids the embarrassment of a double acceptance! All this is easy to do. It is wise to get a flavour of the ezines, not just on what they print, but who. Some have their 'regulars'.

I rarely send to printed mags due to the high volume of submissions they receive and I don't purchase poetry mags anymore (clutter and I prefer to spend on book/pamphlet collections). The turnaround on rejection/acceptance takes time, whereas ezines are mostly prompt. The lifespan of ezines can be short, but that allows poems to be revised and resubmitted elsewhere.

Essentially it is fun. Acceptance is a nice validation, but it is only an editor's opinion (same as rejection). I agree it is an anonymous acceptance and doesn't have the insights received in workshops (but then it doesn't have the nonsense either😂)

This one may interest you

https://eyetothetelescope.com/submit.html

Cheers

Phil
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
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Leaf
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Tue Aug 09, 2022 8:27 pm

Thanks for sharing your insights, MacPhil. I'm only a year or so into submissions, and I can learn a lot from this. I agree that it's fun! :)

JJ, good luck 👍

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JJHenderson
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 12:47 am

Thanks, Fliss! Really hoping you get to feeling better too!

Hi Phil,

Thanks for the info, though as for this:
Macavity wrote:
Tue Aug 09, 2022 7:46 am
Essentially it is fun.
I guess my thing is that it just doesn't sound fun to me! What excites me about poetry is the craft, and the extent to which I care about sharing my poetry is really the extent to which I can share in that appreciation and discussion with others. Poetry workshops can have a lot of nonsense, but even with the nonsense the direct engagement is so much more rewarding for me than knowing my poem is sitting on a page (web or paper) and folks whom I'll probably never meet are reading it. Still, I will think on it and if I can find a way to submit that's time efficient I may start doing that.
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 5:13 am

if I can find a way to submit that's time efficient I may start doing that.
Simply drop the Costa coffee break JJ :D

As well as 'fun', there are other pluses. For instance, a publication validation that the poem is communicating, though a workshop critique may have labeled it 'obscure'! An editor will certainly have read a lot of poems, in all their variety, compared to the narrow aesthetics of some critique.. Always nice to be understood.

It is also nice to share a venue with poets you admire (and may have bought their books/pamphlets). And, very occasionally, some editors give feedback from their readership. And on one occasion, a publisher spotted my poem in a mag. and it was used for 'Poems in the Waiting Room' New Zealand. Nice to know that patients in waiting rooms were reading my poem. Surprising the rewards (though not financial :lol: )

best

Phil
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CalebPerry
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 6:21 am

This is the first time I've been called a "critter".

Phil is right. The more obscure a poem, the more likely it is to be published.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 6:31 am

The more 'layered' a poem the more interesting and likely to be published. I suspect a lack of nuance is a yawn for many editors.
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CalebPerry
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 8:41 am

"Layers" -- I'll have to think about that. "Layers" and "nuance" are words that can be made to mean anything.

Not many, but a few of my poems have gotten good critiques here, and whatever qualities those poems had, I don't think they were any more layered or nuanced than most of the other poems I have written.

What I keep getting back to is that almost ALL poetry written before 1900 was written with an eye to clarity, and people managed to like poetry then, even more than they do now. If I ever publish a book, I think I'll call it "Poems You Can Understand" — and with an eye to you, I'll add "But Won't Necessarily Like". Oh, and my nom de plume will be "Caleb Critter".

As for most editors, I suspect some of them are saying to themselves, "I understand these poems!" *Yawn*
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 9:10 am

Macavity wrote:
Thu Aug 04, 2022 4:51 pm
Samuel Johnson blasted the "whole race of metaphysical poets": "The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtlety surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, ..
Yep, 'obscurity' has long had a negative press. As always, just a matter of differing tastes.

Phil
There is, was and always will be complexity in poetry. It is not a contemporary debate, but an historical one.

I enjoy the poetry of John Donne, I enjoy the poetry of Caleb (the Kahlo one is one I return to read). I have a range of tastes. I studied literature at university, found it a challenge, but I did learn that time spent with complex writing is rewarding. After all Shakespeare is complex eg layered and nuanced. The amount of classical and religious allusions in 'historical' poetry can be challenging for a reader.

A 'critter' by the way is a term I use for all who provide critique. So I am as much a critter as you.
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
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CalebPerry
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 11:22 am

I wasn't annoyed in my previous post, just trying to be humorous.

The Kahlo poem is my biggest failure. I even took it off my blog, which now has all my poems on it. However, I'll keep working on it. Eventually I'll figure her out and find the right thing to say. That you find something worthwhile in that poem gives me energy to try to fix it.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 12:05 pm

I have edited the word to critique in my original post Caleb.

In regard, to your Kahlo poem, I am astonished, but I understand your frustration, though more than pleased you are persevering.

Best

Phil
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
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CalebPerry
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 7:11 pm

I never got the impression you liked any of my drafts of the Kahlo poem. If you do, let me know which one and I'll work on that draft.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=24959&hilit=Kahlo
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 7:50 pm

Version 7 Caleb
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JJHenderson
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Fri Aug 12, 2022 1:05 am

Hi Phil,

As I mentioned to Fliss, most of my favorite poets are/were published in most of the big-named periodicals like Poetry and The American Poetry Review, and those journals just receive so many submissions that the chance of getting into them is slim to none. I wouldn't mind publishing if I could follow in the legacy of my favorite poets. Of course, I'm sure some of my more contemporary favorites publish online too because it's just so common. I'd just have to look into it.

Hi Caleb,

I think layers is one thing some poetry readers look for, but I also think it's difficult to generalize what poetry readers (or even what any individual reader of poetry) look for. I think the same is true in all art. If we could distill what it is that makes art great to so many then it would be easier to make it. I've tried looking for such things over the years, and while "layers" is certainly one factor that seems to give a lot of art staying power, I'm not sure layers is what makes the biggest first impression. I think first impressions, which are necessary to create the initial "wow" effect to make a reader care to look for/at the layers, have more to do with how poems execute the classic dichotomies of pattern and surprise, or tradition and originality. People have very different tolerant levels and appreciation for those dichotomies. As you've noted, most modern poetry editors seem to have a huge preference for novelty and originality, but mostly in the form of striking images and obscure meanings. There's a discussion to be had about why that's so, but it is what it is.

As for obscurity, I think it's been around for almost as long as poetry has. Many poets wrote both accessible and obscure work, like William Blake and WH Auden, while just as many focused on one or the other extreme more consistently. However, if we go back, certainly obscure poetry in English has, at the very least, existed since Shakespeare. Shakespeare could be accessible too, of course, but he knew when he was writing Love's Labours Lost that he was writing for an educated audience that would appreciate the really complex wordplay and abstruse diction (honorificabilitudinitatibus, anyone?). Likewise, Spenser's work was notoriously rich and dense (and also archaic, even when it was written); as was most of Milton's, whose model was Virgil, who himself was much more obscure than Homer before him.

If anything, I think "clarity" only became a paradigm in English poetry in Romanticism, from the songs of Blake and Burns to the atom bomb that was Lyrical Ballads in which Wordsworth and Coleridge specifically aimed to write poetry for the common man in opposition to the scholarly poets of the 18th century, and it's a tradition that a poet like Robert Frost (despite being American) grew out of. Of course, Eliot initiated the period of obscurity as a value in the 20th century, which is still being felt today, but I don't think that paradigm was as new or unusual as you may think. Maybe there's a sense in which Eliot, Stevens, Ashbery, et al. are obscure in a very different way than the Blakes and Miltons before them, but that's style more than obscurity Vs clarity.

Anyway, I think I'm rambling now, but I do think it's interesting to trace such trends throughout the history of poetry, which is always more complex and ambiguous than we can fully grasp.
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CalebPerry
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Fri Aug 12, 2022 7:12 am

JJ, you've found a weak spot of mine, and that is that I haven't studied the history of poetry. That's not to say that I haven't tried to read a few poems of every important author, but I haven't gone back 500 years looking for trends, etc. I'm lazy that way. My blog article about trends covers only the trends that I have personally experienced. Those three poems that I trash in that article really are poems I have nothing but contempt for. All three poets are using obvious gimmicks, and you can tell because their pretentiousness sticks out like a sore thumb.
If you don't like the black theme, it is easy to switch to a lighter color. Just ask me how.

If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Fri Aug 12, 2022 11:06 am

Romanticism was a reaction to Classicism...yep, plenty of history of one lot reacting against another lot in the arts. Ironic that Coleridge wrote poems like Kubla Khan and Christabel that were rubbished (for being obscure).

And yep a surface layer of clarity to lure the punter and then...:D
Shakespeare, of course, had a rather broad audience....

Of course, university libraries are voluminous with poetry critique on Romantic poetry and the rest. A Prof alchemy making the clear into complex?🤔
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
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