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I recently joined a poetry community on LJ. The members post poems through a moderator. Other members critique the poems. I'm really enjoying it. I've run two of my poems through the wringer and have been reminded of readers' expectations. I've also been reminded of how I need to step back from the poetry to see it through a stranger's eyes. It's been helpful.

Of course, just to throw a spanner into the works, last night I submitted some flarf, replete with references to a "self-replenishing hoagie" and lines like these:

Voila! Some other accelerated cohorts
will "see" objects that are harder to make than
white American cheese, lettuce and tomato,
fishing pole, crypt key, hammer.

Setting flarfing aside, one thing bothers me. Maybe it's because I'm older than many/most of the people in the community (that's the vibe I get) and therefore am crankier than they are, but I'm already tired of poems by "Anonymous." I put my LJ username on my work; from there, it's not too hard to figure out who I am. I think it's fair to ask the same openness of anyone who wants me to spend half an hour to critique a poem.

I understand the sensitive artist bit, but as a writer, you've got to stand in the fire and get burned to learn. Everything else is just artistic wanking. Some people have apologized for making vigorous comments about my work, but they're talking about the work, not about me. I tell them not to worry about it, tell them to fire away with gusto, because I understand the difference.

Writers who want other people to read their work need to learn the difference too.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
Totally cool, I admire you for being brave enough to go there. That's one thing I miss about that TIBU site where I used to write - you really posted stuff with the expectation of getting critiqued. It kept me on my toes, although it did tend to get a bit "Kumbaya" with everybody loving everything once they "liked" you.

So - can you throw down a gauntlet to this community, challenge folks to reveal themselves for the very valid reasons you present here?
May. 18th, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)
It's a relatively new community, only about a month old, so I think it's too early to raise a ruckus. I've just decided I'm not going to comment on poems submitted by "anonymous." Besides, I think the flarf is going to wrinkle their minds enough.
May. 18th, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree. That's the thing that bothers me most about blog commenters on news sites: they can hide behind a username and say whatever ignorant, bigoted thing they want because there are no repercussions. I don't mind engaging in a little intelligent dialogue, but when people post paragraphs full of nothing but hate speech and rhetoric, stuff I know the average human being wouldn't say to another's face, it gets to me. I used to post on a lot of poetry communities, but fell out of step once I went to college. Ran out of time to write poetry as prolifically, I guess. Sounds like a great community.
May. 18th, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
After my Bruins pulled the greatest choke job in the history of professional sports, somebody commenting anonymously on Boston.com said he hoped the coach would get fired by the Bruins and then—brace yourself—get rectal cancer and die. That's as low as it gets.
May. 18th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
Sounds like a great community. I'll check it out.

I used to be afraid to put my art out there under my name. It's all about stepping outside what's easy. It's easy to slap up a poem under "Anonymous" and wait behind the screen to see what people say. People think by putting a name on their work, they're opening themselves to harsher criticism. It's something they just need to push themselves out of. Hopefully others will take your approach and the anonymous users will wise up and buck up.
May. 18th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
That's it exactly, and you summed it up much more concisely than I did.
May. 18th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Anonymity, I think, is something we gradually drop as we mature. Some people never mature enough to drop it and stand for what they say, which irks me when they say outright lies and slander.

So I know what you mean.
May. 18th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
The "outright lies and slander" types bother me more than the anonymous writer types, that's for sure.
May. 18th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Indeed, me too.
May. 18th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Hi, I got curious as to who you are :)

It took me about a month in the creative writing classes in college to shed the idea of "I am my work" that most people seem to cling to... once people got to the higher-level classes, they'd usually have toughened up enough to both receive and dish out real criticism and be able to pinpoint exactly what works and what doesn't ("in their opinion" being the unstated disclaimer). I still go out of my way to reassure people that yes, I do want you to slug my writing as hard as you can.

I'm reminded of an episode of one of those reality TV shows - might have been American Idol - where the panel of judges are holding auditions before the "actual" competition/show begins, and there was this one girl who went into the audition room, sang horribly, danced horribly, and when the judges called her out on it, she told them off for not appreciating her for herself and not having the good taste to like "her style" of dancing, which was apparently the way she danced in clubs and everyone else in the club always cheered her on... and when the flabbergasted judges asked her why the hell she was entering this competition if not to improve her singing and dancing skills, she replied (paraphrased) "I ain't changing for anybody, I just wanted to show the other contestants I could beat them all!" and flounced out. And the reaction from the entire room was something like "ooookay then..."

It's frightening how many people are like that. "Artistic wanking" indeed.
May. 18th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad our exchanges made you curious enough to want to peek in ...

Good for you for having the gumption to say, "Go ahead, take your best shot" to the people reading your work. Last night I posted an excerpt from an essay by Barry Hannah about writing. Here's something he said later in the essay:

The language still strikes me as a miracle, a thing the deepest mind adores. At its best, when you lose your arrogance and are least selfish, it can sing back to you almost as a disembodied friend.

I have a hunch you know exactly what he means. Lots of writers never get there.
May. 28th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
Well said, Prof. Vecchio! I've been trying to put my thoughts together on the matter of anonymity for about a month now, but you've done it so beautifully.

I literally created an LJ account just so I didn't have to post this comment anonymously (haha).

But in all seriousness, I'll be co-running The Laurel next year along with Chris Radey, my buddy and an English major. I've been trying to figure out how to deal with anonymous submissions, and, honestly, what you said above is fantastic. Do you think I'd be able to quote you in next semester's fall issue of The Laurel, or maybe hang up that quote in the Laurel office or something?

We can talk about this when we return to Bonaventure, of course, but I had to get this out there before I forgot. Thanks for the wise words!

Pat Hosken
May. 28th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
Hi, Pat. Good to hear from you, and I hope your summer break is treating you well.

Good for you for taking on co-editorship of The Laurel. I think it's great that you're broadening your extracurricular experiences like that. It's going to look good on your résumé and in your portfolio, too (you *have* been savings copies of Buzzworthy, right?). Plus, you get to work with Rick Simpson as your faculty adviser; that alone is worth the price of admission.

In response to your question, most of my life is on the record, and everything I write or post certainly is, so feel free to use my words however you want to. (You might, though, want to consider a more elegant phrase than "artistic wanking.")

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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