Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Anna Couani - about comments

hi all,
Just saying that I find the tone of judgement and correction that's occurring on this project rather tedious and stifling. It's so different to the wonderfully supportive and responsive comments that we have had in Project 366. I find I read the criticisms here and find them often unfounded and arbitrary. Do people  think that we're now in a writing workshop where we pull each other's work apart? For me, writer's groups work best when the writer is free to test their work on supportive readers. I'm interested in whether a reader understands the meaning and intention of a poem. I think we all have the skills to tackle the nuts and bolts, don't need an English teacher to tell us, especially when most of us are English teachers.


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  3. Yes. I second that emotion, dear Anna. We all know know what we're doing by now. But the smart comment can sometimes be helpful.

  4. I love feedback that I can use

  5. I think there's a significant disagreement here about the nature of feedback/advice/criticism on Project 52. Simply, Project 52 is not Project 366 in this and in a number of other respects. It's not broadcast to the world through fb for a start. It's a much smaller and tighter group, more familial I might say. And its specific purpose is the conceptualization of more major works, works that might for instance take a year (or more) to put together. The focus of Project 52 is therefore largely on the re-drafting of works that have already been aired once. Of course that's not exclusively it, because the filling out of a book concept is often going to involve a lot of new material. But the point is that this is not simply the airing of drafts. Project 52 is about progressing work towards publication. It is about the testing of work, in what I would call not peer-assessment conditions, but among an audience of poets – poets of different ages, stages, cultures, inclinations.

    I think vigorous rigorous criticism and commentary/feedback are appropriate in these circumstances. What's that wonderful Tory-word? Robust. And robust disagreement about advice is also productive. To be supportive and to be encouraging – these are fundamental things. They are indeed fundamental to the facts of being a teacher, which is indeed what most of us are, or were, or will be. And in Project 52 I do believe we are mentoring each other in various ways, and on what cannot be considered a uniformly level playing field. We have various ages and stages and roles and relationships entailed – from thirty year old friendships to recent relationships that have only ever been on-line. There are in fact actual teacher-student relationships involved here, and I think there's a benefit to getting advice from a range of sources, and even contradictory advice. There needs to be respect for the advice as well as the work.

    People should be able to float work that needs serious as well minor revision: taking apart, slashing and burning, reassembling from the ground up – as well as minor tinkering. And people should feel free at any point to specify the kind of advice they wish to receive. But if they only want to receive praise, well I can't see much point in being in the workshop really. And it is an on-line workshop, and one with a fairly clear goal, as stated – the making of works for publication.

    One of the natural risks of this set-up is that we end up imposing on others are own standards and expectations for what our own poetry ought to be. To some extent this kind of thing is inevitable, but the better we get to know each other's work, the less this should be an issue. The fundamental thing here is respect – respect borne of an effort to understand what our fellow poet is doing or attempting, work by work and cumulatively.

    Might I also note that keeping 366 open and running means that people have the opportunity to stay there if that is a preferred ambiance, or to move between the two projects as suits. Note there have been a lot more 366 posts than 52 posts this year thus far. And note also that I am still being contacted by people who want to join or return to Project 366. So it's still a place to be. It's what you make it!

    A note on pace. It should have been said earlier but I needs to be insisted upon now. There should be no multiple consecutive posts from any one contributor. It makes commenting onerous for the rest of us. And it detracts from the feeling of a conversation. And while it should certainly not be seen as compulsory to comment on every post, many of us I think would like to do this. This is one of the advantages of working in a smaller group with a less public profile.

    Finally, I'd like to think that we don't need a specific meta-blog for Project 52 (that things are self-contained enough to be managed between the blog itself and the fb chat), but I might be wrong about that.

  6. I I might express what I see as the key difference between 366 and 52, the former is more about showing work still in the hermetic vessel (and so needing to be treated gently), the latter is more about workshopping to get a publishing result (and so needing to be critiqued). I don't know how many more ways I can express what is for me a fair clear intention of difference, and which was expressed, I believe, clearly, from the outset. There is no hidden agenda, there is no hint of banishment.

    I too am posting more than 50% completely new material on 52 at this point. But the difference for me is that whereas what I posted on 366 was only occasionally with a view to inclusion in a particular prospective work, now all of it us some destination in mind. In other words, I'm not posting anything 'unclassified'; I'm not posting anything except with the idea of a collection in mind. So far, anyway!

    I think suggesting what kinds of comments or criticism you want is a good way to go. I did plant this idea at the outset in fact, in relation to putting up plans for the year. But we could apply this to every posting, if we liked. Or we could expect the author to lead the comments with a question of her/his own. This might re-align things in a useful way and make the advice received more focussed. On the other hand I do worry about 'leading the witness', specifically about leading the reader away from their own line of thought/feeling about the topic or the technique or whatever.


  7. Lest people get stressed out by the need to work out how to start/lead a conversation about one's own work, let me suggest some types of comment that would be fine and would do the trick, I think:

    this is gospel (you read it here first)
    no bird sang ever more sweetly than...
    please memorize these lines
    here's one for the Norton Anthology
    this one's finished I think, and I know where it fits
    this idea's so good, someone must have written this earlier on
    more or less finished, but I don't know where it fits in the sequence/collection
    I'm not sure which body of work this should be part of
    the gods speak through me and don't kill me cause I make this stuff up all by myself (Phemius' defence in the Odyssey)
    this one's unfinished but I think there's a fair bit of it there
    this is just the beginning of something … this could be a start... something to go on with
    I found this
    I scraped this off another poem
    this was something else earlier on and I've put it together again (do you think that would be obvious to everyone?)
    I think this works but I'm not sure
    I'm sure this works but I wonder if you think so
    put this under your pillow and see if it's gone soggy or crisp by the morning
    what if there were no verbs at all?
    should I take out all the adjectives?
    hang this one out to dry for a bit
    what can I do with this?
    can anyone try to finish this for me? / would someone like to collaborate on this?
    this one's very rough but I hope you can see where it's going/where it could be going/
    do you think it' true, what I'm saying?
    are there any suggestions for where this one could be going?
    I'll probably think this is rubbish tomorrow but it seemed like a good idea at the time
    please tear this one to shreds (it will be fun and character-building for me to watch)
    Christ, I've been banging on, haven't I?
    I know this is shite (and I hope you do too)
    why do I even bother?
    curse God and die

    do you think this could be a poem?
    I could call it
    leading the workshop with one's own draft through all of the moods of the day

    what do you think?
    should I stop while I'm ahead of the game?
    is this minimal punctuation thing driving you mad?

    Beyond this I do hope we can branch into discussions on form, for instance punctuation, lineation... I think we have been and can be very helpful to each other as readers. And also about content and identity and what we're achieving, or not, as poetry makers. Various struggles of importance to us. And life, the universe and all...

    best to all

  8. All that is quite a lot to digest. You do make your point. Let me make some points of my own. I didn't join the project to have my work "workshopped". I was doing that 40 years ago - and as Anna suggested above, while it might have been kind of useful then, it is certainly tedious now. My approach may be different, but I have also never posted a poem here that I felt was "in development" - and neither have I ever immediately rejected a sensible comment. Some of which of course are actionable and some are not. (Any slash & burn comments I ignore!) I really don't know anyone here, but as I said, I welcome both comments and advice. OK = I get it, or Not OK = I don't get it, reasons optional, will also suffice. I have to say that I'm really not interested in discussions about poetics - or what a poem means. I'm not all that fussed. I mean, I just try and do the work, you know?

  9. That's rather how I feel too, especially about comments at word level, find it boring, tedious. I'm interested to know if people understand what I'm doing but I don't want any silly suggestions.

  10. I do apologize if I have inadvertently given anyone the wrong impression, but Project 52 is most definitely a workshop, and so involves the workshopping of work. I see absolutely no point in exclusively posting to Project 52 work one sees as completely finished. I certainly hope the project involves vigorous discussions about poetics and about what poems mean. That, for me, is really the whole purpose of it. As I keep having to re-state, this project is, in a number of key respects, quite different from Project 366.

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  11. Thanks for clearing that up, Kit. I'm much more of a Project 366 kind of person, so I should withdraw from Project 52. Certainly there's been no harm done. It has motivated me to take another look at my 366 work, to select those poems that I think are worthy, to make a few small changes, and to concentrate on putting together a collection for eventual publication...even if it's only another one of my local self-publishing ventures. Maybe 52 poems in honor of this site? I wish good luck and good work to all and to everyone's fine projects here. Cheers, Rob

  12. thanks for your participation, Rob
    and hoping to continue seeing you regularly on 366
    I'll be there!

  13. It's a pity that Rob is leaving this project because his work is mature and interesting, he often has interesting things to say, has a constructive and collaborative approach to other people's work. I hope that Project 52 will be able accommodate the needs of its participants, that the people making comments can develop some sensitivity towards others. It seems odd to me that some people are subjected to this robust criticism whilst others are simply praised. Where is the robust criticism of Kit's own work? Is it mostly the women who cop the robust criticism?