Jejudo, South Korea
Well, I agree with most of the stuff here. My point was to argue that people do care what other people think of their poetry. I was thinking along the lines of someone who says "I don't care what you say" but, for me, the moment they say, "I don't care," they actually do care. When I really don't care about what someone says, my eyes glaze over and I just stop listening. What I'm trying to get at is why don't we just accept the fact that we do care what other people think when it comes to writing and stop this useless posturing. What I didn't make clear before is the difference between someone who prioritizes him/herself as first and then listens to others. That pretty much has to be the way it is because writing is a solitary, personal thing. It'd be pretty funny, I think, to have a writer put something in a poem that he or she didn't like because someone else said that was the way to do things. Are there people like that?
I honestly think that posturing only hurts us in the long run. We should accept the fact that we care what other people think (I sure do.) Perhaps, if we accept this then we can accept that people aren't going to like it instead of being shocked that someone would be mean or cruel. Also, you begin to see a world of individuals and not a 'me and a few friends versus the world'. It doesn't matter if one person dislikes my poem because another person just might. Furthermore, since you're going to write another poem anyway, you just learn from that experience and try to write a better one. I kind of laugh at being called the 'king of negative criticism' but rarely have I ever said anything that was meant to be, in any way, mean or cruel. A lot of times I actually have complimented certain aspects of a poem that I didn't like as a whole but, you know, for some reason nobody mentions that when they say I need more 'balance' (will come back to that). I try to be honest to my feelings at that moment and tell the author that -- thinking that if he or she disagrees with me, that's fine. Isn't this, in a way, showing a certain respect to the author? If I always gave positive comments, wouldn't that in a sense cheapen the poems that I really did like? I guess what bothers me on this subject is that many people have told me that I should put more balance in my comments but that is nothing more than a manipulative tool. Why not say what you think and let the listener decide if it has any merit?
Several people have pointed out that not everybody has decided to write poetry. They are just 'trying out the water' so to speak (usually with grand pronouncements about writing to live or whatever). I do see a point there when complete honesty should be avoided until they themselves have the confidence to accept it. I never, never will tell anyone not to write or that they have no talent. I want to talk about the poem not the person.
Well, I suppose that was a little bit off the subject. Sorry about that. Just wanted to get it off my chest, I guess.
Earlier I mentioned the media as a possible influence on people's poetry. I wasn't talking about the media as a topic starter so much as the actual phrasing's people use are often unintended imitations of something they've already heard. I've often wondered if the greatest influence in the way people speak is Saturday Night Live. I think it rare that anyone can write something original and exciting by just letting themselves go. Is it possible? Yes, but I think it really is nothing more than getting lucky. This is why I'm just scared to death to post something that just flows from my hand (although I often start that way) This isn't intended at you personally Ruth but nine times out of ten when someone tells me something like, "Can you believe it only took me ten minutes to write this?" I laugh and say, "Yeah, that's about as much time as I figured you took." Ruth, to be honest, I think you're pretty good at that kind of writing (well, except for that war thing ). I read a lot of stuff at other sites that I don't think are.
The above paragraph in many ways seems to argue against influence. Perhaps, we shouldn't read poetry because we will be adversely influenced and our own orignality will be stunted. It's a nice idea but it just doesn't work. Go to any poetry site and start counting how many times the same words are used over and over again. If you read this stuff, over time, it just gets tedious. If you want to be enjoyed by someone who reads poetry, you've got to read it yourself if only to try to write a poem that stands out from the crowd (and we all want to stand out from the crowd, don't we?).
Now, there are different reasons for writing poetry. Mine is, well, I'm not exactly sure sometimes but generally to write something that a reader doesn't necessarily relate to personally but that somehow breaks the very idea of life and identity, that shows them a different way of looking at things, that expands their experience. A poem rooted in generality cannot do this. First, language is general by definition. The moment you write in a language, you are dealing with generalities because that is the way it has to be. We all picture something different, however minutely, when we hear a word; it is what allows us to communicate in the first place. On the other hand, one can write for so long and in such detail that the reader gets bored and goes to sleep on the keyboard. This is really rude of writers of course because what if those impression don't go away? We've permanently disfigured a reader. Can we be sued for that? The trick is to find that middle point, that capture the reader with something truly specific, that stays in the mind of the reader (which is, I think, a much profounder experience than a catchy song -- but that may be personal bias on my part).
Other people write for therapuetic value and I have no problems with this. It is helpful and sometimes I even enjoy the poem. But I wonder if people get so caught up in trying to help the person that they forget whatever value there might be in simply enjoying the poetry or, at least, in telling the writer what they really think. Everybody wants honesty, or they say they do. I don't write for therapuetic value (or don't post that stuff until I think it is actually a good poem.) My fear with this line of thinking is that somewhere along the line the poem itself gets lost, the love of words, the enjoyment of art is displaced for the human need for companionship. I'm not saying that art is more important than people but I am saying that it can be an enjoyable experience without worrying about the writers psychological framework. We need both for a satisfying life.
My other fear is that while I will always listen to those who write therapuetic poetry and even concede their point that it does have value, those who write that way are either too insecure to look at writing from a different point of view (not necessarily mine but any other point of view) with lines like 'that's just the way I write' or 'I don't know anything about that' or 'I just do what I do'. For me, these are conversation stoppers and again, for me, they are in essence (hate that word) telling me that they already know the world, know the art, and feel they have little to gain from listening to different ways of doing things. This is the essentialization of identity. This insecurity, ironically, is exactly the same reaction to someone who already 'knows' how to write, how to do something. Conceit and insecurity result in the same actions and reactions. It is also the same motive that puts certain people on a pedastal over mystical 'talent'. If you accept that they are 'better' than you then you release any comparative/competitive instincts you might have and again find yourself writing because you are 'doing your own thing.' If you think someone is 'better' than you, does that mean you want to write like them? If so, then you should study what they write and try to surpass that writing. If not, then how can you argue that they are 'better' than what you write? Stop worrying about identity and start writing, reading, and thinking about what and how you want to write. If you write, you're a writer. If you write poetry, you're a poet. It is the action that matters,not some facile image of what a writer should be or how a writer should write or your own personal style. Try them all and see which one appeals to you. I ask nothing less of myself and nothing less of anyone else here. Really, in the end, I don't care how you write, I just want to read some good poetry and I think the key for all of us is to explore the different aspects of the writing process to find what we like to do. There may be strengths inside of you that you didn't know you had before.