What are your opinions about sharing work which is admittedly unfinished? We often get poems and works in progress on the USP, which state at the end "This is unfinished".
To me this is a real turn off. How can I critique or comment on something that is not complete. To me it's like saying, "That's a nice arm you've got there, I can't wait to see the body."
Any opinions on this?
I don't read the USPs, so how unfinished, Les? I would have thought the first draft of the whole thing acceptable, as comments still have time to cause improvement. But odd verses would be very difficult to deal with.
Varying stages. Some are rough drafts. Others, who knows.
Even rough drafts leave me speechless. I guess my concern is this:
If I input a change to your poem, is the resulting poem still yours?
How much does any poem belong to its poet? They've all been filtered through an education system, the rough and tumble of life and the comments of friends. Your considered input is just a layer on top of all this.
Duddunt bother me. How is one to know when it is finished? Lots of poets go back and change things even decades later. And, one can consider anything posted on USP as being 'workshopped', looking for input about possible improvements.
Good point Hugh. But I still do not care for the idea of bending a poet's mind to fit my perception of what a poem should be.
Shouldn't the poet have enough pride in their work to want it to be relatively unspoiled by the hands of others?
I'm not talking about the occasional grammatical change, or tinkering with a word here and there. I'm talking about suggested endings, revising stanzas, etc.
Linda, I disagree with your premise that all the factors a person experiences makes a poem "not theirs". The freedom of choice in writing makes our work unique, so does the innate ability of the artist.
I think Les is referring to poems that the author says is still unfinished. For example, on the usp you can read this from one of the newer people:
"This is not finished and probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense yet."
In this case I think that the poem should not have been posted. If you give any input at this point, you are helping them write the thing. It's like painting a picture of a sunset and leaving the sun out of it. Or, writing a play without a final act.
This is exactly what I'm referring to, John. Many people including JP, who's work I admire greatly, have posted unfinished works and asked for suggestions as to which direction to take from there. I don't believe the intention is the same, although it might be. I'm talking about posting half-baked ideas on the USP.
I just can't help but think it's like putting a raw piece of meat on the table, then saying: "Sorry I guys I didn't have time to finish this." I just don't think any self-respecting cook (or poet) would do this.
I don't read the USP postings, but if a friend asked me to look at a DRAFT of anything, I'd be happy to. In fact, I spend a lot of my work time AND personal time looking at drafts of various things, some "creative" work and some not.
I think it's every writer's right to ASK someone to look at a draft. But if you decide to say YES, in my experience it's VERY IMPORTANT to agree with the writer about what kind of feedback they are asking for.
FOR EXAMPLE, if someone is desparate to have the thing finished and all they want is for you to spot errors, then they will NOT appreciate constructive ideas about expanding or re-organizing it.
FOR ANOTHER EXAMPLE, if it's what I call Love-Me-Love-My-Poetry, raw feelings on a page that they hand you with a puppy-dog hunger in their eyes, then ALL YOU SHOULD SAY is "I like this image ... I like this phrase... ". If you can't say, "I like it," just shut up after that. Trust me on this one, people!
FOR ANOTHER EXAMPLE -- Wait, this is really a separate issue:
Someone asked, "WHOSE POEM IS IT?" once feedback has been taken. I have a very strong position on this.
If you write the poem: It's yours.
If you show it to me and I make a lot of suggestions and you use every single one of them: It's yours.
If you show it to me and it gives me an idea for a poem of my own: THAT is mine.
I reject the idea that there's a "gray area" where you are contributing to someone else's poem. Asking for suggestions and then taking or rejecting them is every writer's right. If you don't want someone to use your suggestions, don't make any.
Marian, as usual you have cut to the chase in terms of your observations in the matter. But how do we know what expression they have on their faces when they post something which says "this isn't finished."
if it's what I call Love-Me-Love-My-Poetry, raw feelings on a page that they >hand you with a puppy-dog hunger in their eyes, then ALL YOU SHOULD SAY >is "I like this image ... I like this phrase... ". If you can't say, "I like it," just >shut up after that.
It's easy to suggest, at least for me it is. When I read a poem, I have a preconceived way of wanting it to end. This may, or may not, be what the author had in mind.
I guess the question I'm posing here is this: If you say your poem is unfinished, what do you want me to do?
To comment on what is there, and not worry over what is not...?
Re "a preconceived way of wanting it to end" and
"If you say your poem is unfinished, what do you want me to do?"
UNFINISHED could mean that the ending isn't written yet, but MORE LIKELY the person has written the entire thing, but wants it to be better and doesn't know what to do next.
"how do we know what expression they have on their faces?"
(1) We don't. They are taking that risk when they post on the internet. But we should be KIND, even if our feedback is negative. "Hate the abuse of language, love the poet."
(2) Ask them. Especially if someone "sounds" raw, or if the poem is about the death of the speaker's mother or something. You could say, "My impressions are thus and so. Do you want more feedback on anything in particular?"
(3) Okay, I'm a writer, not a mathematician. When in doubt, lay off.
Marian, I agree wholeheartedly with your third choice. If I knew what the author intended, I'm sure I could say something appropriate.
Opiate makes a good point here:
comment on what is there, and not worry over what is not...
Thanks for the input everyone, it does make a difference.
I've thought about it for some time now, and if we are in a position to help (if it is asked for) we should. To improve is why we are here, after all.
I'm agreeing with Marian-NYC here. (not surprising...) I do read the USP. but don't do a lot of critiquing- mostly because I assume that many of the contributors are 'love me' contributors, not 'help me learn' contributors.
I don't have a problem with people putting up unfinished work, and, other than my congenital laziness, no problem with critiquing or commenting- after all, people have to learn to write poetry somehow. They don't have to take my advice, but maybe reading it will help make them better. (Or not, I freely admit that I come under the 'people who can't do, teach' category)
Those who can't teach become Ofsted inspectors.
Excuse me Linda but those of us on the wrong side of the pond know not what Ofsted is.
Office For Sandards in Education
Thank you Opiate, I did not know that. Over here we call them "Legislators."
oh, i'm not british, i looked it up...i get bored very easily.
Think busybody, appointed to go into a school and tell experienced teachers that they're doing it all wrong.
I heard it was 'those who can't teach, teach physical education.'
It always amuses me that, at least here on the leftpond, college professors are not required to know how to teach!
Judging by some of my "education" professors they take that notion very seriously.