Monday, November 30, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

When is a Poetry Workshop not Really a Poetry Workshop?

It was with great expectation that I attended, at long last, my very first real-time poetry workshop moderated by a local poet. The course description on the site of the organization offering this workshop depicted a poetic experience devoutly to be wished. It incorporated a criteria which was and still is of intense interest to me -a consideration of the complexities of publication.

I admit that I had anticipated a cathartic experience in light of the fact that my muse and I had become estranged as of late. I suppose that it did not help matters much that my only experience with poetry workshops has come on-line. Yes it is true that my initial encounters with on-line workshops were with poetry boards that were so saccharine-imbued in their literary criticism that it sickened one's literary sensibilities to have to entertain some of the poetry and crits that were forwarded by the local board members.

What purpose - pray tell - does sugar-laced critique serve? It is my humble opinion that it serves no one. Just as it might be argued that the deconstruction and dissection of a poem ad infinitum also does little to assist in the editing process if it is without purpose and/or constructive direction.

Still what transpired in the real-time workshop is an eventuality that I should have logically anticipated. Obviously, it is much easier to be more forthright on-line where there is a very different form of interaction between members. Face to face confrontation is more unnerving an enterprise. To look into the whites of their eyes and tell them that their poetry just doesn't cut it is much easier said than done.

There is much less at stake in an on-line confrontation than in a real-time one. It is a more liberating and less inhibiting feeling to know that by implementing a click of a mouse the poetic interlude is quickly concluded and a possible literary altercation is avoided.

I was clearly taken aback when my critique of a poem which was by no means intended to be malicious or caustic in nature was construed as such by one of the workshop members. The poet in question did not immediately confront me but then proceeded to attack the poetry I was work shopping at every turn. In actuality, I prefer to receive in-line critiques that meticulously point out the elements of poetry that don't work in a particular poem in question. But obviously said critique must be couched and/or based in the objectivity of the concrete and not the subjectivity of the abstract.

The upshot is that I have come away from the experience having gained no insight and having no real inclination to do it again. I would very much like to hear from those of you who have had a positive experience in real-time workshops in order that I might entertain the thought of dismissing this interlude as an aberration.