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 http://www.everypoet.org. 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.
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...