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In Defense of Critique - Roy Jerden's Blog

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In Defense of Critique

Blog Posted:2/22/2016 3:21:00 PM

Dear Poetry Soup,
I've been cheating on you for almost a year. 
Four years ago, it was nice at first, a warm welcome by PD and AnneLise, encouraging comments by others, soothing my burning desire for someone, anyone, to read my poems. Certainly better than the first couple of sites I tried. 
Took me a while to comprehend which parts of the site were really utilized and which parts were dormant, like the forums. Finally figured out that it was here in the blogs that most of the discussions took place, some educational, some interesting, some pathological.
Then I discovered the contests, struck out a few times, and then actually began winning and placing in them. Yahoo!
But after a while, girlfriend, you began to bore me. Among other things, I started to see how folks craved not only attention to their poetry via comments, but became offended at the tiniest critique or suggestion. How dare me! Some folks, of course, had no filters on their comments and called some poems crap. In many cases, they were correct, but did not provide details on the texture, color and odor. Often such comments devolved into pathological ad hominem attacks.
 You see girlfriend, you're not really structurally designed for poets to grow through critique. In fact, you discourage it so much that one feels like they are walking on eggshells. Be nice, encourage, etc, etc. But someone needs to tell the emperor he has no clothes, sweetheart.
Receiving critique helps the poet become better. Critiquing other poet's poems also helps the poet to become better, as it requires learning how to analyze poetry. As your critiquing improves, so does your own poetry. Tremendously. Even reading critiques of others poetry helps.
Now a critique is not an activity where you curl up in a ball while folks beat you with sticks, like a dissertation defense. It's a dialectic, a conversation, hopefully with multiple participants, often they will disagree among themselves. This is a good thing. (Thank you, Martha.)
So how do I know about this? It's my other girlfriend of course. Then I'll tell you about the crazy sadistic girlfriend some other time.
Her name (not the crazy sadistic one) is Poetry Free For All and she lives at This site is dedicated to critique. There are rules and guidelines to follow and you must critique three poems for every poem you post in a forum. So you are guaranteed to get critiques, but you must learn to give them as well. There are also forum moderators, experienced poets to keep the critiques honest and civil.
Like going to the hot springs, there are different pools depending on how much heat your tender little ego can stand.  Below, I have shamelessly copied and pasted most of the FAQ page. Read it. I don't think they'll mind.
Section I
Welcome to the FAQ. How nice to see you here. If you haven't visited the "Newbie Stretching Area" yet (in the "Not Really Poetry" section), please go there (when you're finished here) to test the various forum tools, introduce yourself, and so forth.
Note: In an effort to encourage a greater number of visitors to read these guidelines, we have added the following hot and sexy content as an incentive: pant pant bellow shriek. We now return you to the posting guidelines.
Another Note: If all this structure isn't your bag, you may prefer our recently-launched sister site, the Pink Palace of Poetitude
Herewith, then, our "Frequently Asked Questions", throughout which we have used the subtle attention-retention technique of labeling particularly pertinent passages baboon-buttock red: ( Roy's note. Sorry, i did not duplicate the colors. Not because of lack of skill, but rather common laziness.)
1: Someone called my poem pointless piffle, foul-smelling fluff, a wanton waste of bandwidth, or otherwise drove the spike of an unkind review through the oh-so-tender tissues of my ever-so-sensitive heart. Also my soul. What do I do?
1a: Thank them. Always.
2: Think about why the poem elicited a negative reaction. Do you value the judgment of the person who offered the negative review?
2a. If so, thank them for taking the time to read and comment, pay attention to whatever specifics they may have pointed out, think about what went wrong, and try to write a better poem that will elicit a better reaction next time. Reading a few hundred poems can't hurt, either.
2b. If you do not think their opinion is qualified, ignore it. Thank them politely, and pay no attention to whatever it is that they said. If they are unqualified to judge whether your poem is good or bad, why should their opinion bother you?
3. Do not, under any circumstances, repeat, do not respond with abuse, threats, or other absurd kindergarten antics. Do not spit and pull hair. If you choose to make an ass of yourself after an unpopular review, you will have a maximum of one opportunity to rectify your behavior, after which you will be banned permanently. We have an extremely low tolerance for abusive behavior. We reserve the right to ban anyone at any time without notice.
4. If you do choose to ignore your better nature and respond with remarks that constitute an unseemly display, the moderators will likely remove them, remove the thread from the forum, or delete it altogether (with an audible squish).
5. I keep reading the phrase "Read more poetry". Just where do they get off with that attitude?
If someone tells you to "Read more poetry", rest assured that they mean well. If you desire to write poetry, one of the best ways to learn is, naturally, to read everything you can get your hands on. This applies universally to every single art form known to mankind, and poetry is absolutely no exception.

Some behavioral guidelines:
13: Some suggestions on critique.
If someone is clearly out of their depth with a posting, such as someone who posts a cliché-ridden bundle of platitudes in the "Merciless" forum, a suggestion is that you try to diplomatically steer them in the right direction. Suggest they read the FAQ, suggest a different forum may be more appropriate for them, suggest they read a few volumes of poetry, but try not to unnecessarily rile people up. Many people are not only beginners to poetry, but also beginners to the special vagaries of Internet interaction. The combination often results in avoidable unpleasantness.
While you're at it, please comment on the poem, not the comments. It is a breach of etiquette at the Poetry Free-for-all to attack or defend someone else's critique. If your ideas differ, simply post your own review. And please try stay on topic. (Moderators may step in from time to time and comment off-topic if the discussion in the thread needs to be directed back toward the topic, or if the remarks made are decidedly uninformed.)
14: One new poem per forum per day
Please post only one new poem per forum per day. Each poem you post bumps someone else's off the bottom of the page. Please be considerate.
A few of the many charming and delightful visitors to the Poetry Free-for-all are so overwhelmed (and rightly so) with poetic enthusiasm that they post whole reams of poems at once. While the thought is commendable, the practice is a bit unfair to the more restrained posters who restrict themselves to a more moderate and equitable one new poem per forum per day.
Would everyone be so kind as to post new poems at that less frenetic rate. You will find that you will receive more comments on each poem, and that the other visitors to the forum are less likely to become irritated.
Note further that this restriction is a good deal less restrictive than it may appear at first glance. There are 16 forums for poetry and one for prose, so you could conceivably post 17 insightful, compelling, precision-crafted works of high art every 24 hours, or one every 85 minutes, provided you don't sleep.
15: Three comments for every poem
One can learn as much or more from commenting on others' poems as one does through writing one's own; plus, we all crave the reasoned feedback of our worthy peers. That's most often the reason we post our poems here. Please do yourself and everyone else a favor by reading and commenting on a minimum of three other poems for each one you post.

That's all.  It's not you, girlfriend, it's me. I needed to grow. We can still be friends...

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Date: 2/28/2016 6:43:00 PM
I like the fact that they will remove someone for abuse after the 1st warning. People need to remember that a poetry site is for learning and enjoyment; not petty arguments and egos :)
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Date: 2/23/2016 8:09:00 PM
"What We Consider Previous Publication: Previous publication is considered to be any appearance in print or online, including on or in a newspaper, newsletter, magazine, anthology, chapbook, book, website, electronic magazine, personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, or other social-media platform. Please note that even if the print run or circulation of the print publication where the work has previously appeared is small, this is still considered previous publication. No work that has been excerpted elsewhere is eligible for submission; nor is a work that has been revised since its original publication" This from the Malahat Review (akin to your Paris Review, biggest of the big boys)
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MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/25/2016 5:48:00 AM
It was hard enough to remove about 900 I think. I should purge more of them. I am more sentimental about their connection to different poets on Soup then I am about the poem, itself. Gotta fly.
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/24/2016 8:24:00 PM
You have a huge number posted. I try to keep mine trimmed to about 50, mostly my favs and the most recent ones. I keep the others backed up. In fact, I need to do some purging.
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/24/2016 1:55:00 PM
I'm one of those annoying people who follows rules. I haven't even tampered with one of my previously posted Soup poems (and I got 1000 of them.) Stupid? Probably. So I consider 1,000 poems as good practice. LOL! Yes, email is excluded as it is considered a "writers group" and those are allowed.
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/23/2016 8:19:00 PM
Pretty strict. I presume e-mail is excluded? Really, in the end, it's all about not getting caught, isn't it? You know, even your online backup files like Dropbox might be considered by the poetry cops.
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/23/2016 8:12:00 PM
This is pretty standard. Some smaller journals, tend to be a bit more lenient. Man, I am beat tonight. Goodnight, Roy. :)
Date: 2/23/2016 6:00:00 PM
Great Blog, Roy. I found the site's guidelines etc to be hilarious. There is a whole world of poetry outside of Soup and it is good to "play the field." I checked out 'the forum'here on Soup... what a JOKE. Can't stand its format. I'm at the point that it would be self-defeating to post my poetry at any site as that would be deemed published. I have been requested to send my work to some journals by the editors. I am 'almost' there, but need to tinker a wee bit more... workworkwork :D
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MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 2/23/2016 8:08:00 PM
Well, every journal I submit to says they will not accept poetry that has been anywhere on the net, even a personal blog or facebook. Hold on...
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/23/2016 6:10:00 PM
Also, I use a pseudonym there, although the admin has my contact info.
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/23/2016 6:08:00 PM
Actually, the site is ideally used for poems in progress, to get feedback early on, so it is better when actually published. I was actually rebuked by a moderator for posting a PS poem, she thought it was too good, I guess and googled it. I was just testing the waters. But it shows you they are sharp. I don't know how a publisher would feel about this. It's a good question.
Date: 2/23/2016 4:48:00 PM
Well Roy it didn't take long to see there's a lot of learning to do to be a critique. Fortunately there's a lot of great information available to move me in the right direction. Just reading the comments on others work has filled in some spaces in my thinking. Thanks for the link.
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Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/23/2016 4:57:00 PM
Thanks, Robert. That's really what it's all about - learning. A critique is not perforce negative. It's a review of what the poem is trying to say, and the way it says it. There are both technical and artistic components. Clearly part of artistry is ineffable, though and cannot be analyzed. Appreciate the comments.
Date: 2/22/2016 7:48:00 PM
Way too long & too much to absorb! Folks here cringe if you ask them nicely tp put a period after a line with a subject & a verb in it [really!] PS I know you mean well but you haven't tried any of my suggested 'growth experiences Roy?'
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Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/22/2016 8:19:00 PM
Point taken. I shortened it by removing some of the admin stuff. I presume PS denotes post scriptum rather than poetry soup, so I'll take the remark as directed at me. I find good, even harsh critique serves me better than mentoring as a learning style. I actually enjoy it, as long as it refers to the work. One that I really like uses the Socratic method, just posing questions. Yes, sometimes it hurts, but no pain, no gain.
Date: 2/22/2016 3:39:00 PM
This whole critique/blog thing puts me in mind of an old Monty Python routine about "The Funniest Joke Ever Told". Perhaps if we can all agree on what the BEST poem ever written is we can all stop writing and shred everything but that one PERFECT POEM....
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Lindley Avatar
Robert Lindley
Date: 2/23/2016 9:51:00 AM
So true Roy. Let an artist take a picture of a wooded scene, the that same artist stand there and paint the same wooded scene as he looks directly at it in person. The picture(anybody could have taken) will not bring him fame but yet the painting may one day do just that!
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 2/22/2016 4:34:00 PM
Ah, but it's the imperfections we love isn't it. Painting did not cease to exist after photography was invented, did it?

My Past Blog Posts

Kiss of the Eagle
Date Posted: 7/20/2019 7:35:00 AM
Tim Ryerson
Date Posted: 4/27/2018 7:09:00 PM
Life in Hell by Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons)
Date Posted: 11/6/2016 5:17:00 AM
Family Reunion
Date Posted: 5/20/2016 7:29:00 PM
Lucifer Gets the Gig
Date Posted: 3/9/2016 9:45:00 AM
Rindersella and the Pransome Hence
Date Posted: 3/1/2016 1:45:00 PM
Spoonerisms Contest
Date Posted: 2/27/2016 7:45:00 PM
In Defense of Critique
Date Posted: 2/22/2016 3:21:00 PM
I felt wrinkly, so I did some irony.
Date Posted: 2/13/2016 8:11:00 PM
Having some fun with Photoshop...
Date Posted: 1/8/2016 8:05:00 AM
Thanks for your support
Date Posted: 6/3/2015 6:42:00 AM
Hosting multiple open contests.
Date Posted: 5/12/2015 8:23:00 PM
A Sonnet for Pansy
Date Posted: 5/5/2015 8:50:00 AM
My story was published this month
Date Posted: 5/2/2015 9:09:00 PM
Pi Day 2015
Date Posted: 3/13/2015 3:05:00 PM
Foodies - Part 2
Date Posted: 1/7/2015 11:30:00 AM
East Jesus Contest Judged
Date Posted: 1/2/2015 9:21:00 AM
Happy New Year to the World of Poets
Date Posted: 12/31/2014 6:23:00 PM
Merry Christmas to the World of Poets
Date Posted: 12/25/2014 5:54:00 AM
Foodies - Part 1
Date Posted: 12/20/2014 2:01:00 PM
How kids perceive their grandparents
Date Posted: 12/19/2014 5:55:00 AM
Got Writer's Block?
Date Posted: 12/6/2014 8:10:00 AM
Clean and Clever Limerick Contest Update
Date Posted: 11/17/2014 7:51:00 AM
My First Short Story - Accepted for publication
Date Posted: 11/2/2014 6:46:00 PM
Happy Halloween
Date Posted: 10/31/2014 7:18:00 AM

My Recent Poems

Date PostedPoemTitleFormCategories
3/14/2017 Donald's Blunderland Political Versepolitical,
1/27/2017 Can You Trump That Limerickpolitical,
3/23/2016 One Hit Wonder Quatrainart,poetry,
3/18/2016 But Her Bruises Were Green Limerickhumorous,
2/27/2016 Pussy Paean Quatraincat,
2/24/2016 That Dog Don't Hunt Limerickpoetry,
2/9/2016 Rewind World Quatrainsorry,
2/7/2016 Lucifer Gets the Gig Proseheaven,satire,universe,
2/5/2016 Return to the Sea Free versebeach,death,sea,
1/30/2016 OMG, That's So Cliche Rhymepoetry,satire,
1/24/2016 And When You Look at Me Quaternlove,romance,
1/23/2016 Way Back Then Rhymehumor,humorous,nostalgia,
1/22/2016 The Virgin Witch of Moulineaux Villanellelove,magic,valentines day
1/13/2016 Table Hogs Limericksatire,
1/3/2016 Another Trip Around the Sun Sonnetnew year,
7/6/2015 The Waning of Dreams Coupletdepression,sad,wine,
5/26/2015 Poetic Ambitions Quatrainart,poems,poetry,
5/4/2015 A Song for Pansy Rhymehistory,
4/17/2015 English Lit Rhymehumor,
4/10/2015 Scratch Rhymechildhood,humor,nostalgia
11/29/2014 But I Must Stay Villanellesad,
11/29/2014 The Pedicure Virgin Prosehumor,
11/14/2014 One Tolkien Over the Line Rhymetribute,
11/5/2014 Message of the Moth Coupletangst,longing,
10/25/2014 Pi Day Rhymehumor,
10/15/2014 Halloween on the Dark Side of Town Rhymeholiday,satire,
9/15/2014 The Empty Quarter Alliterationearth,nature,stars,univer
8/5/2014 Pickett Tupp and Poteeta Whey Quatrainchild,children,
7/22/2014 A Brush of Wings Versebird,
7/8/2014 Willow: A Fable Rhymechildren,death,dream,fant
6/30/2014 Ragnarok: The Storm Epyllionweather,
6/28/2014 Dante's Path Quatrainspiritual,
5/26/2014 Albert Einstein Clerihewhumorous,science,
5/7/2014 Jonah Falcon He's Not Limerickfunny,
5/6/2014 The Well Traveled Linguist Limerickhumorous,
5/2/2014 The Devil Can Cite Scripture For His Purpose Rhymehate,religion,slam,
4/1/2014 My Thunderous Wondrous Electric Toy Train Rhymechristmas,nostalgia,
3/11/2014 Premature Exoneration Limerickholiday,humor,
2/10/2014 A Series of Unfortunate Darwin Awards Limerickdeath,humorous,silly,
1/23/2014 Ancient Dance Sonnetlove,
12/28/2013 The Whittlers Cowboygrowing up,nostalgia,
12/19/2013 Redneck Santa Rhymechristmas,parody,
12/17/2013 The Tomb of the China Poblana Epichistory,
5/15/2013 The Conceit of Poetry Coupletphilosophy,universe,
3/23/2013 Tiger's Wood Limericksports,
2/17/2013 All Hat and No Cattle Cowboyhumorous,old,time,
2/10/2013 Dark Temptress Sonnetfood,humorous,passion,
1/30/2013 Icebox Days Rhymechildhood,growing up,humo
1/26/2013 The Angel Inside Rhymeallegory,angel,art,beauti
1/22/2013 Call Me Tex Cowboyhome,humorous,me,satire,
1/10/2013 Bobcat Moon Rhymeautumn,friendship,loss,mo
12/9/2012 Six Man Dance Rhymeautumn,football,nostalgia
8/27/2012 Kiss of the Eagle Rhymeadventure,space,travel,
8/23/2012 Delicacy of Leaves Rhymehappiness,nature,time,
8/10/2012 Keep It Turnin' to the Right Rhymeday,earth,funny,life,love
8/10/2012 Cruisin' the Drag Rhymecar,funny,growing up,high

My Photos

Fav Poems

Amazement Free verselife,places,voice,
Pearl Diving Quatrainlove,
Slow Movin Tights Balladme,red,women,
Oh, Heavenly Night Lyricheart,night,
A Voice In The Wind Rhymeimagination,nature,
Sailing the Seas In A Pecan Tree Rhymeadventure,old,
Soul of the Poet Quatrainfarewell,poems,poetess,
Generations Epicbirth,death,hope,life,
Muse Free versewords,writing,,Lullaby,
Falling upward Rhymeanger,angst,bereavement,b
No Longer Mourn for Me When I Am Dead Lyricdeath,faith,religious,
Ashen Snow Villanellesad,september,

Fav Poets

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