Author Topic: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops  (Read 2331 times)

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Offline fragments

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About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« on: January 30, 2008, 02:13 AM »
You know I have been doing this for so long
recently exposed to the Amherst wrters school of thought on critic

the first thing they ask you to do is
list 5 positive things about the poem

(yes I know that is difficult in some cases)

Then instead of picking apart the spelling and grammar
have the original author make the changes
not the critic person


so make suggestions
instead of==Stanza two was so bad I had to throw up after I read it
You might want to re phrase the 2nd stanza

I know this is the Axe
and the expected norm--is harsh critique

I have gained much from the suggestions of others here--


Has anyone else been exposed the Amherst wrtiters network and workshops?
Please lets discuss
The clouds told him their names, in the quiet of the summer afternoon
Charles Simic from "The World Doesn't End"

Offline Allen

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2008, 03:45 AM »
Very Good.

Even though this is not a critique on a poem, I believe the question is very relevant; and, of particular interest to many, if not most, of the SplashHall community.

Let’s have an intelligent discussion.
Allen

An action promulgated out of desperation will inevitably end in tragedy; for as its anagram so aptly foretells:  A rope ends it. �

Offline dublinsteve

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2008, 04:31 AM »
Frags,  this is a wonderful and dreamy idea, however, there are many poems (most actually) and mine included, that do not have 3 good things about them, much less 5. I think I am too hard on many of the pieces, but in my mind the writers need to improve or find another hobby.  Every reader is being asked to invest his/her most valuable resource, their time, and when the posted work is a waste of that time it takes a little from the readers life. Why should there be any reward for something that cannot be reclaimed, and for something that, in the mind of the reader, cannot be repaired or salvaged. 

I stay away from the other sections of the forum, generally, because I don't want to read comment after comment after comment about how wonderful the poems are, when they are nothing more than a release or catharsis for a person who has little writing skills.  It does not mean the writer isn't a wonderful person and if we were able to meet that person, they may become our best friend.  I would not be a good engineer, or attorney or doctor or accountant and I do not have a problem with people saying that to me. Why should there be this soft spot for poets? In school, when you do poorly you get an F, only it is written and kind of secret in a way, because we don't have to be told we did poorly, in person.  Giving a critique as we see it from our own perspective has to be honest, truthful and at times brutal. How else will the writer know. You can't spend energy praising and encouraging work that is less than standard in craft, style and language.

"This piece of work stinks and has no redeeming values," has a whole lot more meaning and force for the writer to consider than, "Some things in life have an odor, but we can always whip out Fabreze and spritz a bit on it. And sometimes that will help it smell better. I think you have something here that can be masked to smell a little more fresh!"

I prefer, "I wanted to vomit after reading this, but if you will change the first 3 words of strophe 3, I would still vomit, but there would not be quite as much coming out," when the piece is bad. When, IMO, the piece has merit, I will say so, and offer ideas that they may or may not use. Maybe there will be 1 or 3 or 10, depends on my perspective of the piece. And afterall, isn't that what the whole thing is about, two people's perspective of a given written subject?

If the writer wants nicey-nice, then stay in a forum or a section that will fawn over anything and hold the vomit down. There are many people who only want that, and I applaud them because they stay within the bounds of their comfort level and expectations. That is why attacks in those sections are unfair. It's like the player who warms the bench season after season, he is never mentioned in the paper, gets neither credit nor grief, but the guy who gets up and strikes out time after time has a rough go of it from the media. Should we tell the person how to swing the bat better, or call him a bum and demand that he be traded?

All this said, I am generally a nice and decent guy who simply calls a strike a strike, a ball a ball and a foul a foul. And there is likely not a person on this forum that I could not sit at a table with and have a hell of a good time, even after trashing their work, or having had them trash mine. I consider that the mark of being an adult.


Offline Bill

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2008, 05:20 AM »
This is a revision.*

I did a Google search to gain some contextual information about the Amherst Writing Workshops, the founders and trainers.  To become certified in its methods costs minimum $2,000 US.  I could not find information on what a certified Amherst trained instructor might charge those who participate in a certified trainer's own workshop.  Reading the promos, it strikes me that the methodology works best in a live, real-time, person to person setting.  It would be difficult to replicate how Amherst does what it does in a setting such as that which SplashHall offers.  Amherst relies too much on immediate, verbal feedback to the author in a setting where the attitude of the critic is more evident by virtue of voice inflection and clear, concise direction.

On the other hand, its philosophy of gentle nurturing of authors towards more confident presentation of rough work with the goal of educating the author in respect to how he might polish his efforts overall has some merit.  But Amherst is convinced that such nurturing is an acquired skill which is why they offer training for those who want to acquire it and then use it in establishing their own writers workshops, or even their own business as a critic and/or certified trainer.  Amherst claims that its workshops have resulted in over 500 authors being published, but I didn't have the time to discover what that means; paid, anthologized, local newspaper, chapbook, collection, publishing house, what? 

Regardless, the Hall is an online, written critique format.  There is no chance to "hear" the inflection of a given critique.  Each one of us might perceive his/her criticism as a positive presentation, but it might not be perceived as such by the author.  Some of us might feel that a very straightforward "slash and burn" is the only way to school an errant poem.   Others among us might feel that only certain styles of poetry are even worthy of the designation, "poem."   Still others might feel that any effort is worth encouraging.   There is no standard approach, such as Framents mentioned.  Ex.:  Identify at least five positive things about the piece before you offer any other commentary.  Personally, I think that it would be difficult to arrive at a concensus about a standardized approach, one which everyone agrees to follow.

That said, we could agree, at least, to restrain ourselves from being deliberately insulting.   Also, an attempt should be made to make any critique understandable to everyone.  The critique should not be worded as poetry, to show the cleverness or extensive vocabulary of the critic, unless it is offering a suggested change to the work under discussion.  How can we efficiently workshop a given poem, if first we have to decipher one of its critiques?   I am not suggesting that we discourage growth in vocabulary, usage, form, and the like.  However, though still fairly new to this site, it strikes me that the range of education, experience in life, writing ability, and socio-economic status covers the spectrum from GED to PHD, from world traveler to rural homebody, from dabbler to published author, from ghetto dweller to estate owner.  One should not assume that every other one should "get it" when he is holding forth in a critical style and vocabulary that reflects where he's been, what he knows, what he's done, what he's read, and how capable he is as a writer.  All that should be valued.  All that may serve as a basis for informing the author.  But it should not be cause for dismissing him as an author. True, the Poetic Ax room has posted warnings.  But even a "harsh" critique should still work with the author's chosen preference in style and form, not immediately denigrate it because the critic does not favor it himself. 

Steve's take on the Poetic Ax would make a lot of sense, if SplashHall was a publishing house and we were paid to come here and review the presentations with an eye towards selecting those that would earn the house respect and a living among the booksellers and buyers of the world.  However, it doesn't strike me that the goal of its founders is to be the American Idol of online poetry sites.  Even Simon Cowell would not be involved in that show if he were not geting paid up front.  And there is financial reward in the promotion of the last singer standing.  The time spent here by those who post and those who critique is descretionary time.  One does not have to go online, or come to this site, or read any of the poetry posted here, much less spend time composing a critique of a given poem  In addition, preparing and posting is as much an investment of time as reading and critiquing.  Understanding the general philosophy of this room in the Hal, posting in the AX is not just a statement that the poet's perception of his work is that it is worth reading.  It also is a statement that he has achieved a level of maturity in respect to his desire to grow.  Maybe an 'F' is deserved, but, in the past, when I received one, it was evident why, and there was some clue as to how to correct my thinking.  Finally, anyone's perception that others are holding back expressions of genuine disgust, while he is demonstrating courage and integrity in puking all over the piece is just that, a perception.  Critiques, as most other written expressions, reflect personal taste, level of education, and even personality.  You cannot find a brand of coffee I can stomach, no matter what you title it or how much sugar you put in it.  So, I won't go to Starbuck's, but I won't fault those who do.  You want to talk fine wines?  I'll be out on the back porch quaffing Mountain Dew and studying the clouds.  I'd find that much more interesting, but I won't denigrate your choice of beverage or your discussion regarding it.  So, here, you don't like a certain room, don't go there.  Steve 's made it clear that is one of his choices.   And I commend him for it.  I commend anyone who knows his own mind.  You come into the AX to post, be prepared for fine wine stewards to rip apart your taste in beverage.  You come in the AX to critique, be prepared to sample soft drinks, fine wine and hard liquor.  You don't have to like a certain author's form of expression or phrasing in this forum.  No problem there.  There are few natural born writers.   We all can use help.  But help is what a poster is asking for.  So with all the studied wisdom one has acquired, or all the insight of a newborn babe, be helpful.  And if you don't think a particular piece can be helped, well, even that perception can be communicated in a fashion which recognizes that when you have a bowel movement, there is a smell in the room, too.


Well, that's more than enough from me.   Whether it is "intelligent" is, as are most things, a matter of perception.   Bottomline:  Keep writing.



*Smiling.

Offline dublinsteve

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2008, 01:32 PM »
Well stated, Bill, in your nurturing manner.  You are on the other end of the spectrum, so it is fitting that the two of us are the first responders.

Your points sound good. However,

Quote
One should not assume that every other one should "get it" when he is holding forth in a critical style and vocabulary that reflects where he's been, what he knows, what he's done, what he's read, and how capable he is as a writer.  All that should be valued.  All that may serve as a basis for informing the author.

we are incognito. I do not know anything about the others, and they know nothing about me.  All we have is the actual work, and to be honest, I think the backgrounds of the author  and the critic are not relevant. I have read poems on this site over the years that I can guess with nearly 100 percent accuracy the background and socio-economic history of the author.  Their work reflected their lives and it was good, very good, in some instances.

We have to base our opinions on the work itself. To try an worry about the author's history is faulty thinking. Either the writing is good, or it isn't.  Authors are allow to post good and bad material, critics should be allowed to respond the same. Anything less is a form of censorship. Of course, I think attacking the author is out, stick to the writing.

The one issue I have with your reply is this:

Quote
But even a "harsh" critique should still work with the author's chosen preference in style and form, not immediately denigrate it because the critic does not favor it himself.

I can't help feel this is a personal stab at me, which I could care less, but I think it refers to my known distaste for rhyme. I do not care for it, but I do not attack it for what it is, but for the quaility it carries. Among the most butchered poetry is that which we find in this category. It is either done correctly or it isn't. It is easier to judge, because of the structure and word quality it must have.

So, it seems to me that you can continue giving the good, nurturing grandpa advice, I will throw out the old, crabby grandpa advice, and the authors can hopefully realize that their work is somewhere in the middle.


Offline hcscable

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2008, 04:41 PM »
Wow!

This is a great subject. I have been thinking along these lines the past few days. You all know that I love the Ax! I am not here for a back rub. As a published author and artist I have received my share of bloody critics in both of these art forms. I can take a hit and keep on ticking, perhaps to the chagrin of some of my critics.
Yes, I believe that some of the critics seem to go out of their way to rip a poem apart simply because of it`s form. I tend to think, that if that form of poetry is something you detest or are not familiar with, you might think of just passing it by. Leave that critique to someone with a better regard for that style. I agree with Bill, that reviews posted in the form of verse is just that reviewers means of showing off. It is almost pathetic. I also agree with Dublinsteve that reviewers that just "love" everything they read and critique your work with a bath sponge do more harm than good.
I am all for a grading system. A to F. 1 to 10. Sounds great to me. The problem is that not knowing the credentials of the reveiwer means you may be asking a street walker what she thinks of Mad Dog 20!
Dublinsteve and Bill have my utmost respect for the critiques they offer. But now I am almost beyond frustration. I know that I am a writer. I have been paid good money in the past for my fiction and non-fiction. That says plenty enough for me. As I have always said, the best critique is a check in the mail. Putting all your fine observations
in prespective I am left feeling that my work is somewhere in the middle. The question for me is....the middle of what?
"Painting is poetry and poetry is painting with the gift of speech"...Simonides {556 B.C.-468 B.C.}

Offline cy street

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2008, 06:35 PM »
mister fragments, i have followed your orlando thread with interest.  like that thread, this one implies you are taking your pursuits of poetics seriously.  i support you fully and completely and look forward to seeing you perform live.  bueno suerte amigo.

as it relates to the ax and this discussion, i have read the entire archives of the ax multiple times.  for me, the ax is not an abstract idea, nor a set of guidelines or laws; it is what it is, words on a page, footprints in the sand.  as it is, i believe there is more to be taken from the poems and the discussions as is than you would ever find in an academic dialogue, no offense to the universities. 

in other words, i would not change one iota.  rg has been committed to the free space of splashhall and the ax specifically and the results speak for themselves.  this freedom expresses itself beautifully if you ask me.  the ugliness helps define the occasional revelation.

i support you and/or others who might decide upon a formula to critique each other.  what is stopping you?  you need not change the ax to achieve this outcome, go for it.  however, if the ax becomes one size fits all, then it is lost.  i support any agreements you make within the ax, leave the larger alone, i say.  furthermore, the idea of scoring poetry is absurd.  for those who disagree, please watch "dead poet's society" again.

beyond the suggestions, i would remind you and others of what i have posted several times before.  the art of critique is a two way street.  it is as much about teaching, as it is about learning.  when i divest myself in a poem, i do so selfishly.  i want to live in the poem so i might know more about poetry, my poetry.  this is why i read muldoon, this is why i read you.  i pour myself into the process so i might discover a new piece to the puzzle and sometimes i do, sometimes i come up empty.  creation is a messy business and i like the mess, i like the conversation, the pitched emotions, the disappointments and the "poor me".  this is an apt reflection of life in my eyes.

teach as well as learn from the ax and you will grow strong.

good luck,
i recognize your intent is to improve your work,
as it should be,

cy street


 
now was always better than then

Offline hcscable

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2008, 07:02 PM »
I wish some people would read all of the words...not just some of the words!
"Painting is poetry and poetry is painting with the gift of speech"...Simonides {556 B.C.-468 B.C.}

Offline cy street

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2008, 11:31 PM »
some people?

some of the words?

all the words?

fascinating.

compelling.

ground breaking.

you know who
now was always better than then

Offline WordFaery

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2008, 12:12 AM »
I used to find it satisfying to read "Oh, I just love this" as a comment to a particular post.  I grew out of that stage. Grew up. Got hungry for something else.

If Steve calls me on the carpet for serving up a dish of fried cliche, I'll take him at his word.  Any number of times, Ms. Witt has assisted with punctuation and tenses.  Diana Trees taught me to add blood, Champagne Shoes has stepped on my offerings, Cy sighs at me and I pick with him constantly. Mojave gives illustrated commentary. Certainly there are many, many more Splashers who make thoughtful comments

We all have differing styles as well as tastes and these attitudes are reflected in our comments.  I highly respect the Ax wielders because of the dedication  to and love of the art and craft of words.

I expect that when I post to the Ax, I will be pushed up to another level.

And I am grateful for all of the help.



"Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame."      W.B. Yeats



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Offline petroglyph

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2008, 03:33 AM »
Good topic and intelligent, thoughtful comments.  I was nodding along with almost everything dublinsteve had to say, and appreciated the lucid, humane comments by Bill.  Guess I’ll have to sit in the crabby grandma pew, longing to sit with the nurturing grandmas, damn ‘em.

IMO, when poets post poems full of misspellings (heh, heh, always have to do spell check on misspellings...) and grammatical errors, they’re saying they don’t care enough about their own work to even bother proofreading.  Why should anyone else spend time on it?  If it’s just a cathartic vomit–fine.  But that doesn’t make it a poem.  The cathartic pieces are often most sacred to the writer, who becomes outraged at any suggestions having to do with cutting or change because those words in that order express how the writer felt and are therefore ‘true.’

On the other hand, gawd help the poet who tries to incorporate all critiques into the work, diligently trying to stretch, prune, incorporate, renovate, until the final product is that hopeless mess–a poem by Committee.


Offline fragments

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2008, 06:43 AM »
I am glad I got some real responses to this question.

I have been around long enough to appreciate what the Hard Ax--has to offer.

I tried to find out about the Amherst writers--and I know a PHD in Lit here in Florida that runs workshops
she is wonderful and many people rave about the quality of work.

In critic we must call a spade a spade--
But the lion's share of the work should be done by the original author.

Let's take one of the best books dealing with poetics Louis Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry.
In the first 44 pages of the book--poetry of various types--Iliad-to Robinson

Part 2 is Zukofsky's critique and a bunch of additional poetry

Part 3 is poetry--alone

The only way a poet learns what works or does not work--in on his or her own

telling someone their poetry just flat out blows--does nothing for anybody-except the critiqer's ego

I think about Bukowski--and his popularity
All the traditional presses shunned him
especially the academic ones
If John Martin and Black Sparrow press doesn't come into his life
we wouldn't know him at all.
were his poems technical masterpieces?--absolutely not

here us Buk's take on the whole young poet thing

Friendly advice to a Lot of Young Men by Charles Bukowski

Go to Tibet
Ride a camel.
read the bible
Dye your shoes blue.
Grow a beard.
Circle the world in a paper canoe.
Subscribe the The Saturday Evening Post.
Chew on the left side of your mouth only.
Marry a woman with one leg and shave with a straight razor.
And carve your name in her arm.

brush your teeth with gasoline.
Sleep all day and climb trees at night.
Be a monk and drink buckshot and beer.
Hold your head under water and play the violin.
Do a belly dance before pink candles.
Kill your dog.
Run for Mayor.
Live in a barrel.
Break your head with a hatchet.
Plant tulips in the rain.

But don't write poetry.

Charles Bukowski


Now much like the Frost post  here critiquing stopping by woods on a snowy evening
(A wonderful look at poetry forums of all kinds by the way)
this poem by Bukowski would get Keelhauled in the axe

It's cool that we can talk about it.

I see Bill and Steve's side of this too.
If a poem is crap how do you turn it into meat?






The clouds told him their names, in the quiet of the summer afternoon
Charles Simic from "The World Doesn't End"

Offline Bill

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2008, 01:05 PM »
Fragment's inclusion of Bukowski's advice made me laugh.  It called to mind a poem I wrote a while back.  It also contains the answer to Fragment's question, "How do you turn a poem that's crap into meat?"  So I posted it in the AX, not so much because I'm looking for crit, though go ahead, if you wish, but because his closing line made me laugh and think of how you can be inspired to write, if you insist on doing so.  And I wanted to keep it proximate to this thread.

Offline hcscable

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Re: About Critic-Amherst Writing Workshops
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2008, 04:25 PM »
I have to admit that I have been guilty of revisions that turned my work into a "poem by committee"! More than once. Like Lincoln said, "You can please some of the people...blah, blah,blah."
My basic question is, who am I pleasing. Thusly, I posted an open question in The Aluminum Farm. Judging from the answers I received, Splashhall seems to be a conglomerate of aspirants. There is nothing in any way wrong with that. But, I need to put that into perspective. It`s like asking you neighbors why you car is making that funny noise. Everybody has an opinion. You may get lucky and find someone who really knows what they are talking about. But, the only way you can know for sure is to take it to the experts. Well, I don`t have the money to hire an expert. What does that leave me? Most of the time, it leaves me scratching my head. And my car is still making funny noises.
Dublinsteve, Bill, Mojave, and Witt have been most helpful. Mojave has gone out of his way to assist with Broken Conversations. Dublinsteve has actually answered my point blank questions as to where my real problems lay. Bill is always there to support me and gently guide me through rough waters. Witt is my technician and my and my rooting section.Everyone has something to offer. Each, in their own way, are supportive if you know how to seperate the wheat from the chaff.
Of course, there are some who avoid your posts like the plague. That speaks volumes as well. I can chalk that up to basic indifference to my work...or just a plain petty grudge. The later being immature and destructive to that person and to Splashhall
as community dedicated to supporting each other.
This is still my favorite forum. Lively! Enchanting!

P.S. I hate Bukowski!
"Painting is poetry and poetry is painting with the gift of speech"...Simonides {556 B.C.-468 B.C.}