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Jefferson Carter Jefferson Carter Male, 91, United States (6/18/2013 2:20:00 PM)


A CONVERSATION ABOUT POETRY: Here’s an archetypal exchange on poetry sites like Poemhunter. Someone posts a poem, fishing for compliments. Someone responds (me, unfortunately) as honestly and politely as possible and we’re off to the flame wars! Follow the numbers….


1. David Wood writes, “The world looks on to world leaders to bring about change at the G8 summet this week. As a poet I have written a poem called G8 that I hope you will read. As poets all we have are words as our armour to use. The strongest weapon is the pen. So I invite all who read this to write a peom about the G8 summit and put it on PH for the world to read.”



2. I reply, “David, I read ‘G8’ and didn't like it much. Why imitate 19th-century rhyming verse?The battle against formal verse, especially sing-song formal verse, was lost about 60 years ago. You need to STOP writing and start reading. Whether you want to write contemporary poetry or not, you don't have a choice. If you're serious about writing better poems, immerse yourself in the work of good contemporary poets, like Charles Simic, Philip Levine, Mary Oliver, etc. If you're not serious about writing decent poetry, why bother to post?”


4. David Wood replies, “You really are an obnoxious snob. I was hoping people would read the message not focus on the style. You are being rather an anal retentive. If somebody emailed you that 'there will be a nuklear war in ten minutes' you would focus on the spelling error and not the message.”



5. I reply, “Ah, yes, David, the old ‘Snob’attack! When it comes to quality in art, you're damn tootin' I'm a snob! ??If you want readers to focus on your G8 message (such as it is) , write an email or a short essay or any kind of expository prose. That's what it's for—transmitting information. If you think couching that message in spastic meter, sing-song rhymes and worn-out phrases actually adds to the persuasiveness of your position, you're nuttier than a fruit-cake factory. If you knew ANYTHING about poetry and poetics, you would have been too embarrassed to send me that above message.

6. David replies, “You really are an arsehole. I read one of your sad poems and it sucks.”

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  • Dan Reynolds Rookie - 1st Stage (6/19/2013 7:00:00 AM) Post reply

    I find many of these points valid, particularly David's last one.; ¬)

  • S. A. S. Rookie - 1st Stage (6/18/2013 7:27:00 PM) Post reply | Read 2 replies

    JC, Regarding your premise that " someone posts a poem, fishing for compliments, " - -] I have heard you say this before and I think you are wrong. I believe the majority of people posting want to improve their work and perhaps have no one else to read it. Most people aren't in an academic environment. If you haven't noticed, most of the populace doesn't routinely read any form of literature beyond " The Hunger Games." Most of the people I deal with daily have no idea I write anything beyond a business letter. The crit I've received over the years from TDF, Martin Turner, W/Mary, Denis Joe, Jesse Weiner, and others has helped- made me re-think certain poems and projects. A friend who is a novelist recently sent me some impressions/tips based on PH postings, and I am still muling them over and applying them to pieces I have not posted on PH. You've been lucky to be published and have connections in life- your talent has been enabled- but most writers struggle in complete annonymity. Sometimes it's helpful to have an online connection when no other exists.

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    • S. A. S. (6/19/2013 3:51:00 PM) Post reply | Read 2 replies

      I don't think the poets I mentiolned above post looking for compliments. I also forgot some important people like John Kay, Adam Reynolds, LP, Lawrence Beck, etc. What I always wished was that more ... more

    • Lamont Palmer Rookie - 1st Stage (6/19/2013 2:20:00 AM) Post reply | Read 1 reply

      Everyone gets rankled by a bad critique, professional or amateur; no one enjoys being panned or ripped apart. Nor do I know a poet who is not looking for affirmation. Thats partly why we all write. Th ... more

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