The stanza meeting on  a selection of Penelope Shuttle’s poems yesterday evening was (as always) very interesting.  Thank you for choosing the poems Robbie.  I was particularly interested to hear Sarah saying that “if she had put this or that in her poem she would probably have edited it out” and (what I thought were) some very pertinent questions by Dave about the logic of words and the concept of abstract over concrete.  Jonathan made some interesting comments about the change of punctuation or the lack of it.  I found Chris’ explanations an insight into the poetry.  Gill is an admirable ambassador for Penelope’s poetry and seems to be able to find a valid explanation for everything I found impossible to understand.  Are we being a bit too critical when we do our read and feedback sessions?

Love to get some feedback on my question.

3 thoughts on “FEBRUARY 2015

  1. Robbie Burton

    That is an interesting question, Sarah. I think it’s quite possible that the answer is ‘yes’.

    After many years of trying to critique my own poems with little success, I’ve come to the conclusion that giving a poem space is crucial. That is, as far as the author is concerned, poems need to be put face down in a real or metaphorical drawer and given time to ferment. I know that. I know that very well. And yet I’m still too easily convinced that the poem I’ve just written is the best thing ever… only to look at it a short/long time later and find it to be the worst thing ever.

    I believe that poems need to be given space by a reader too, especially for critiquing purposes. Which is why I think it’s valuable to be given the poems in advance of a critiquing workshop. On the other hand… and there’s always the other hand… Judy Brown prefers the gut reaction of instant critiquing. A sort of love/hate at first sight. I can see the merit in that, too.

    So this makes me think that as far as one’s own poems are concerned, space is definitely needed. But a reader has distance from somebody else’s poem so can perhaps judge with a fairer eye. But then we come down to objectivity, eye of beholder stuff. What appeals to me may not appeal to somebody else. That doesn’t make a poem bad or good.

    I think… and I’m on surer ground here… that what is needed above all else when writing or critiquing a poem is experience of READING poetry. Reading magazines, reading anthologies, reading blogs, scouring the Poetry Archive site, reading collections… READ, READ, READ… and after that WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.

    Oh… I’ve wandered off a bit… ‘Are we being a bit too critical when we do our read and feedback sessions?’ Well, maybe we’re a bit inclined to I-know-what-I-like-ishness, rather than informed-opinionishness..

    I’m going to notify the group of your post, Sarah, it would be good to get lots of other opinions on this.

  2. Gill McEvoy

    I’m glad the Penny Shuttle evening made you do so much pondering Sarah! We probably are being over-critical when commenting on poems at read and feedback sessions. But that’s far better than being under-critical: if that happened then we’d be in danger of becoming a ‘mutual admiration’ group which would be no use to anyone wanting to improve their work!

  3. Sarah Lewis

    Interesting question and comments. I absolutely love and value the read and feedback sessions. I think I’d much rather have overly critical feedback than not. It gives me food for thought and I can take it or leave it, my choice. It’s one of the things I value most about our group. I’ve been in others where the feedback is ‘nice’ but not really helpful. I appreciate it when people step out and offer feedback, even if I don’t agree with it. It takes courage to give feedback and it’s something I’m trying to gain confidence in (after all, what the heck to I know!!!)
    So, thank you to all who offer feedback!
    I read well-known, published poets who seem to break all the rules and do things I thought weren’t ‘allowed’, so I do think we are a bit hard on ourselves. But that’s ok. And, as usual, once you’re famous, you seem to be able to break all the rules and do what you like. I’ll bet you’d even get away with using ‘shard’ words!!!!
    I guess the rule is – you need to know the rules before you break them. I’m still learning – the feedback sessions help. Thanks to Sarah for posing the question.

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