Forum: The Art of Declining

Discussing: poetry declines

poetry declines

From the last thread:

rhythm flat or choppy
meter and rhyme scheme feel forced, not smooth
Certain words jarring in context

Not appropriately concise
Wordy
Repetition is not successful within the context of the poem



I would add - Rhyme, Meter or Repetition varies from the set form to no purpose


Another questions for the poetry mavens among us -
If a poem is using a standard form, like a sonnet, how do you feel about lines that should rhyme, but don't quite? Are there standard times that is acceptable?


Tough to give a simple answer -- For me, judging poetry is like judging figure skating - small mark for actual figures, bigger mark for technical, biggest mark for artistic interpretation. I am a "content over form" girl - make me believe it and I am yours.

Then I give bonus points for anything done in an extraordinary way — use of symbol, language or image for example.

Yes, there are times it is acceptable - and there are forms where it is required. There are also words that rhyme to the eye but not the ear - used on purpose in several forms.

I fall back on why and how the rhyme is forced. If it stops the flow of language or meaning, it is not working no matter how clever. (unless that is what it meant to do)

If the content is improved, the line is clever, the eye/ear finds it pleasing — it is working correctly no matter what the rules say.

There has been a lot of discussion about rules of technique and grammar all over HASA lately. My personal feeling is that, while we all want to be technically correct, most of the "style" rules (how concise, how few adjectives, etc.) are geared toward technical/business writing. I don't advise ignoring them, but fiction and poetry sometimes need to be experimental. The "rules" say the bumblebee can't fly - but that's because the rules look at the bumblebee as a fixed-wing aircraft. Sometimes if you want to fly, you have to beat your wings.

 

 

Re: poetry declines

If a poem is using a standard form, like a sonnet, how do you feel about lines that should rhyme, but don't quite? Are there standard times that is acceptable?

ough to give a simple answer -- For me, judging poetry is like judging figure skating - small mark for actual figures, bigger mark for technical, biggest mark for artistic interpretation. I am a "content over form" girl - make me believe it and I am yours.


I would agree with that - break the rules and pull it off - then who cares what the rules say!

For me, it is more the other way around. An example would be a poem that somehow doesn't sound right to me, and lines that I thought should rhyme don't. I'd hate to decline something and find out later that it was supposed to be that way according to the form.

Yes, there are times it is acceptable - and there are forms where it is required. There are also words that rhyme to the eye but not the ear - used on purpose in several forms.

What forms require that or find it acceptable?
And about eye rhymes - a few come across well to me, and some stop me right in my tracks. Is that something one has to get used to?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I emphatically agree! If I like a poem, I can usually say why. If I don't - it is harder to pin down.

"Imperfect" rhyme -
The example that pops into my head (because I have been working with it recently) is the Cywydd deuair Hyrion (Celtic long-lined couplets)

Like the Haiku, we can only approximate cywydds in english, but the form uses rhyming couplets of seven syllables. One of the last words in the couplet has to be trochaic (/accented, unaccented/) and the other iambic (/unaccented, accented/)

They do rhyme, and they look right to the eye - but since the stressed and unstressed change (so "confess" and "brightness" might end two consecutive lines) the rhymes sound impecfect to the ear - but it is required by the form, and it is hard to do correctly,

I should be able to think of others offhand, but they are not coming to me, so I will peek into my reference. And I am still working on "forms" for the reference section!! I would be happy for you to make it public in its wimpy state if other people want to be able to add to it.

And about eye rhymes - a few come across well to me, and some stop me right in my tracks. Is that something one has to get used to?

My experience is, yes. I find that they sound "wrong" most of the time. Maybe Gemma knows a reference we could judge them by?

 

 

Re: poetry declines

There is something that needs to be addressed by our poets.

If you are submitting a poem in a less-common form, please that the time to educate the reviewers about the form. Most reviewers understand the concept of rhyme-scheme. Where we lose people--and one of the reasons, I think, that poems take so long to get through the process--is when a poet tries an unusual form.

When people know the rules, such as the Celtic couplets you've mentioned, they are less likely to reject it based on the fact that it "sounds wrong".

Khazar

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I am working on a "research article" on forms now, (help always welcome)

But many unusual forms can be reviewed by clicking to the verse and adverstiy forum.

I tried putting a link to the V&A in a few of my poems (even when not in review, as I like unusual forms) I had two people leave remarks (both in review) about that - one said it gave away who I was (?) and the other said it was insulting to assume they would not know the form.

My note says: "For more information on this and other forms of verse, join us at verse and adversity."

Maybe we can also come up with a standardized wording for a link to help us avoid this?

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Lots of interesting issues here! I was hoping that someone would start a poetry-specific thread, after the incidental comments brought up on the other threads.

Couldn't agree more with the statements about content and execution being more important than strict adherence to a form. I definitely believe that a poem should be judged foremost as an individual creative work, and not as if it were intended to be a textbook example of its form. After all, the form is the scaffolding, not the poem. A sonnet, say, could be written in full rhyme, slant rhyme, blank verse; have lines of irregular count; be exploded; it's still a sonnet as long as certain recognisable fundamentals are present (i.e. it's a fourteen-line lyric poem, on one main theme, with some kind of pithy conclusion), and it's perfectly legitimate to do any of those things if that's what the poet's inspiration comes up with.

Admittedly, I don't have much interest in set forms to begin with, but I think there can be too much emphasis on form as a good in itself. I wouldn't be concerned, as a reviewer, that a poem took liberties with its form, or that the form was mis-labelled in the summary - I'd be interested in how the poem worked simply as itself. Against some other views, I'd even suggest that the author's labelling of the form and/or reviewer's knowledge of the form doesn't necessarily matter. For instance: if the poet has used an obsessive form (e.g. the villanelle), then the material should have some 'obsessive' quality to which the form's repetitions contribute. If it does, then hopefully the repetitions will seem natural and appropriate to the reader, and they won't be worrying about the 'form' at all. If it doesn't work naturally, then the poem doesn't gain any merit by the reader knowing that 'that's what a villanelle is supposed to do'.

Which, I suppose, brings up one potential reason for decline: badly-chosen form. Sometimes there seems no reason for a poem to be written in a particular form. There are mini-narratives in sonnet form, potted histories passed off as haiku, villanelles rhyming obsessively about how cute the poet's cat is. Perhaps the author had only a limited understanding of the form, or perhaps they were trying some arcane form as a writing exercise and didn't quite realize it as poetry. The result can seem strained, artificial, or both; you can tell quite obviously that the form was chosen first, and the content shoe-horned in afterwards. A decline comment might read something like, Content did not seem to gain from being cast in this form / Reads more like an exercise in form than a work of genuine inspiration / Form is too elaborate/contrived/obsessive for the material, etc..

Probably, now, hordes of poets who've been genuinely inspired to write sestinas will come and clout me over the head with them

Imperfect rhymes? Yes, perfectly acceptable and even to be preferred, IMHO; you get a chime of sound without the potentially hurdy-gurdy effect of full rhyme, plus greater liberty to choose accurate wording. I'm perfectly happy for a poet to rhyme moon/stone/thine/thorn/Rohan, provided (of course) it's judiciously done.

Eye rhymes? Don't know of any reference for judging these; I think it comes down to the reader's own reaction. If it sounds too odd, it probably is . Something like throne/gone works as a slant rhyme with the additional harmony of being an eye rhyme. Something trickier, like through/trough - there should probably be a valid reason within the poem for the author to be juxtaposing unlikely rhymes, or fooling the reader's senses. Jr./Mr. - it better be humorous!

And now I've gone very lengthy and forgotten the other matters in the thread. Two issues I'd be interested in throwing out for discussion are: the place of the 'generic' in fanfiction poetry, as mentioned on the general thread, and archaisms, the which aboundeth.

Gemma





 

 

Re: poetry declines

The biggest problem with telling readers to go look something up somewhere is that they won't.

Suppose, for example, two poets submit haiku. Poet X submits the following:

This poem is about Gandalf.

Poet J submits this:

These poems are about Gandalf. They are haiku, the ancient Japanese form, which ideally have 17 syllables.

Poet J is ahead of the game by telling reviewers what to expect. Poet X's work may be superior. But by not telling the readers what they are likely to see, the chances of readers glancing at it, and deciding to not read/review, are much greater.

khazar

 

 

Re: poetry declines

: The biggest problem with telling readers to go look something up somewhere is that they won't.

Point taken, but I would still like to have the more detailed reference available as well as a notice that a [insert form] is being used, and its peculiarity is [pick most obvious one].

Re: summaries. I agree on the relative merits of the two summaries: J's is better than X's as it gives the reader information s/he requires. And from the other decline I thread, I think it seems clear (well, to me it does) that summaries can function differently for poems than for a number of kinds of prose works in terms of giving necessary contextual information that one would in many cases expect a prose work to incorporate within the body of the story itself. What kind of poem it is, if it is perhaps a lesser known form, would be a part of that necessary contextual information, and if I had a link in the content page to something that could lay out the basics of, say, a triolet, I'd be happy as a reviewer.

BTW, it seems like there might be interest in creating a prose forms glossary, as it were, defining some of the lesser known sorts of prose forms. I think it and a cheat sheet on poetry forms would go well together as a reference work. What think people?

 

 

Re: poetry declines

BTW, it seems like there might be interest in creating a prose forms glossary, as it were, defining some of the lesser known sorts of prose forms. I think it and a cheat sheet on poetry forms would go well together as a reference work. What think people?

Are you falling prey to another resource!nuzgûl? Sounds great, thanks for volunteering!

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Are you falling prey to another resource!nuzgûl? Sounds great, thanks for volunteering!

Er... ah... give me one form and I'll write an entry on it? [throws self on mercy of the Resource Manager] Maybe we could make it a collaborative piece, everyone taking one form and contributing an entry between 100 and 500 words long. Tay could call upon her merry band of poets to help her out in a similar manner... [help me here,Tay, I think I've dug myself a hole].

 

 

Re: poetry declines

[help me here,Tay, I think I've dug myself a hole].

Sorry, was someone talking to me?

I've been out banging away at the poetry forms resource, and looking for a little hutch for all these lovely fang-y kittens I seem to have collected. Where could they all have come from? What was it you wanted?


*******

Actually, I think having these be open files where someone could drop in a single... or multiple (How'm I doin, Dwin) entries is a good way to go.

I would happy to be responsible for checking/overseeing and updating entries for my group, though lord knows there are many here with a better serious grasp of the material. I am generally good at "approachable."

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Time to stir the pot in this quiet forum

Re. summaries. I have some problem with this and with the similar thread in 'Decline Comments' - in some posts (chiefly on the other thread), there's been an underlying idea that some pieces of writing are better appreciated if one has access to a rulebook that explains how/why they were written. Obviously, understanding a form can make one a more appreciative reader and reviewer, particularly with forms (like the haiku) that are characterized by a certain scope and approach. But it seems to me that if a piece doesn't speak to a general reader, then it has failed on some level no matter how excellent an example of its form it might be. As reviewers we're voting on poems to include in a general-readership archive - if a reviewer can't 'get' a poem simply at face value, then it's likely that a reader on the public side won't either. We can't give them a rule book.

To take an arbitrary example: if you're reviewing a double dactyl, do you need to know that one of its lines is meant to be gobbledegook? Knowing the form might increase your enjoyment of the poem, but at the least, you would recognize it as a kind of nonsense verse, rather than nonsense, period. I first saw the double dactyl in a book by Wendy Cope, only learning later that it was a form invented by Anthony Hecht that follows a pre-set pattern and includes certain set elements etc. The poem wasn't any less funny on account of my ignorance.

It may be that it's the imperfectly realized poem that needs the 'rules' for comprehension, not the fully realized one. To take another random example, have a look at this haiku (by contemporary poet Geoffrey Daniel):
pale moon before dawn;
  in the wooden bowl
  honesty

I don't think the reader would need to be familiar with haiku conventions to recognize that as a complete scene, with the visual association of 'moon' and 'honesty' as its starting point/organizing principle. (Readers from certain parts might not know what honesty is, but then they need a botany textbook, not a guide to forms.)

On the other hand, take something like:
Noble Aragorn
wielder of the sword reforged
healer of kingdoms

(That's deliberately bad, but I have seen stuff like it.) Looking at a fragment like that, a clutch of statements that doesn't make a poem, the reader can't really understand what the author was attempting to do unless they count the syllables, and realize 'Ah, yes, the author was trying to write a haiku but grabbed the wrong end of the stick' (the end with '17 syllables' on it).

Relying heavily on the summary to provide context seems risky anyway. The summary is intended to help the reader choose interesting fics; it's not truly a part of the work. Perhaps a better means of providing context, particularly for poetry, is through the title. To take Poet J and his haiku: haiku don't (usually) have individual titles. A poet submitting a single haiku would most likely title it 'Haiku'; a group of haiku could be titled 'The Dead Marshes (or whatever): A Haiku Sequence'. That's the usual method in print media, and it identifies the form with no fuss. Any form could be identified this way, even if the poem also has a unique title.

If poets do decide to explain their form in the summary, then they should do it accurately and not go overboard, or it might be better to have said nothing. In examples like the 'Poet J' one, it seems that the summary is crossing the line into 'apology'. I don't think that particular example would actually aid a reviewer - as a description of the form it's unhelpful, and to me it would suggest that Poet J is defensive and insecure about the form they've attempted. I've seen a poem in the review pool where the form was incorrectly described in the summary. Although the reviewer will judge the poem the author actually wrote, not what the author claimed they wrote, that kind of mistake inevitably sends up a little warning flag - not what the author wants when they're running the gauntlet.

Gemma





 

 

Re: poetry declines

Hm.

I partly agree and partly disagree, Gemma. For a *really* good poem (with all the nebulous indefinable criteria that that invokes), I may *not* need any kind of description of its type in order to feel moved by it.

For a *really* bad poem, ditto (moved straight to the decline button).

For that poem that is sort of somewhere in the middle... I may need the type in order to be certain I'm not misjudging it by standards not applicable to it, to be certain I stop and judge it carefully using all the resources available to me, including what type of poem it is supposed to be. I'm guessing most poetry will fall into this category, just as most fics fall into this category.

To take the moon in the bowl example above--this is not a poem I would immediately respond to. It puzzles me, yes, and it does have something more (definitely a *lot* more) than the Aragorn haiku that follows. However, that example is already, to me, poetry-neophyte that I am, 'weird'--it doesn't *look* like a haiku, it's already (to my not as versed sensibilities) a poem embedded in a literary tradition that, like abstract art, requires more than my 'natural attitude' in order for me to appreciate it.

For one thing, it doesn't have the syllabic pattern I've always been led to expect. It also, as I said, doesn't immediately move me to anything but puzzlement about the bowl in the middle—is it the moon in the bowl that's honesty? Is it only the moon? Is it that the moon is just setting, and the real honesty is looking in an empty wooden bowl? What's going on here? Now, it's short, happily, so I can puzzle over it some more and decide whether I think it is profound. Most poetry is short(er) than a novel, which is nice for rereading when you're short on time. However, there's no guarantee for that moon example that I'd 'get' it, even if the world acclaimed it a masterpiece. The world obviously has more information and practice appreciating haiku of this variety than do I--they're an acquired appreciation. Poet J's "usually having 17 syllables" warning at least tells me that the poet may know what s/he's doing, and so merit my closer examination of this odd set of lines.

Which brings me by a leap of Dwim logic to errors in a summary. Frankly, if the poet cannot manage to figure out what s/he is writing, and mislabels, that does tell me something about the author that *may* be relevant to the poem once I have read it. Just as mispelling "Aragorn" in the summary tells me something about the author that *may* be relevant to the story (it tells me s/he is careless) once I have read it.

I understand your concern about defensiveness, and the idea that a perfect exemplar of a type of poem may still fail utterly because it is merely a formal exercise with no passion at all behind it. I've seen this as well, and not just for summaries about poetry. And perhaps it can serve as a crutch for a reader who is not particularly poetical (that'd be most of us, I think, for whatever reason: institutionalized incomprehension, personal indifference to highly compressed forms, etc.)—find me a form, and I can at least see whether it fits what it says it is! (And in all honesty, I'd say for poetry, if it follows the usual ratio of bad: good, that may be quite enough to cull the majority of poetry fairly.)

Is it fair that people want to know what sort of poetry it is, whereas most won't ask what a work is if it is prose? No. Is it a fact that the audience we write for (the general public) is more likely to find prose automatically more accessible, intelligible, and intelligently discussable (for want of a better term) than poetry? Yes. The gap exists, and somehow has to be dealt with, and I think a reasonably cognizant author will attempt to figure out who the audience is and how to initially address the work to them. One way of trying to deal with it is to give reviewers, who are a part of the general Tolkien- and fanfic/poetry-reading public, information about the kind of poem it is so that they do not act out of sheer ignorance and say something like, "This poem keeps repeating lines. That's like a third of the whole thing!" and hit decline. At the least, it denies the reviewer the opportunity to claim ignorance—s/he could've gone and looked up the form if s/he had cared. So it may help the author in the end sort through which reviews were worthwhile and which were not.

It is a paradox—we want an archive that has fics that are enjoyable but which are also worthwhile; at the same time, we're working on a system that is relatively democratic within the HASA reviewer population. We can't count on everyone having a degree in literary criticism or much practice articulating their views in a truly accurate and critical (in the good sense of the word) manner.

So as with FF.net, a certain risk is involved here—an author may choose to provide more information than a sophisticated reader/critic may deem necessary so as to better the chances of his or her work gaining a fair review from reviewers who are less practiced in the art of reviewing and critical reading. Or, s/he can decide that the work absolutely has to stand on its own even without a knowledge of form: that formal competence should be the last thing to be appreciated, the extra bit of saffron that makes the meal but which doesn't require to be noticed for the meal to be appreciated. An author may think that adding information about a form in the summary is a mark of a weak author/frightened author, or that that is giving too little credit to readers, or that it's a betrayal of the high standards of the work which is *not* for everyone but which is nonetheless worthwhile and should be noticed as worthwhile even if no one really *likes* it—that is up to the author ultimately, and certainly there are no requirements about what should go in the summary (other than that it should not be the entire story).

If the title helps contextualize poetry, fine. Use that title, and if that seems to be a better way for poetry to be presented, and especially haikus, wonderful. If that's how it's usually done in the publishing world, wonderful. However, I'm not a particularly widely read person in terms of poetry, and I wouldn't know of that convention. I personally dislike that solution— "Éowyn, my fair one: a sonnet" loses something (plus, it's not a sonnet to the best of my knowledge). "The Dead Marshes: A haiku set" also loses something as a title, and titles are important to me as a part of the work. So even though "Haiku" is perfectly acceptable for published haikus, to me, it wouldn't work: that requires more knowledge than I have to appreciate what the author is doing. Similarly, one of the intricate Welsh forms up in "verse and adversity" may be wholly appropriate to its type and address a subject appropriate to its form, but fail to move me because I had no real understanding of how the poem was supposed to work—it required more knowledge than I had. At least naming the form gives me no excuse not to check up on that form to see what it's supposed to be doing.

Ok, I've rambled on. Two cents and all that. Gotta go!

 

 

Re: poetry declines

For that poem that is sort of somewhere in the middle... I may need the type in order to be certain I'm not misjudging it by standards not applicable to it, to be certain I stop and judge it carefully using all the resources available to me, including what type of poem it is supposed to be.

Sure. I didn't mean to state that there aren't individual poems for which knowledge of the form is useful. (Did I state that? It must have been Exaggeration for Effect™.) I do find that poetry discussion on HASA lays an unusual emphasis on form, and I suppose I'm reacting against that, after a fashion. For some reviewers there might be a fine line between understanding a form in a way that complements an individual poem, and judging on the technical execution/historical antecedents of that form. Perhaps labelling poems might influence reviewers to judge more for the latter. I don't know. But as Dwim says, it's up to the submitting author how they choose to weight their case.

For one thing, it doesn't have the syllabic pattern I've always been led to expect. It also, as I said, doesn't immediately move me to anything but puzzlement about the bowl in the middle—is it the moon in the bowl that's honesty? Is it only the moon? Is it that the moon is just setting, and the real honesty is looking in an empty wooden bowl? What's going on here?

Sorry - I guess my example was even more localized than I thought Honesty isn't the virtue; it's a plant whose leaves dry to a translucent, filmy white.

Actually, the syllable count of this poem is probably more typical of contemporary English haiku than the Aragorn monstrosity's 'textbook 17'.

One way of trying to deal with it is to give reviewers, who are a part of the general Tolkien- and fanfic/poetry-reading public, information about the kind of poem it is so that they do not act out of sheer ignorance and say something like, "This poem keeps repeating lines. That's like a third of the whole thing!" and hit decline.

Hehe. I certainly see the point, though I'd be interested to know if that actually happens. Unless the reviewer just hated repetition with a passion, then I would imagine that by reading the poem they'd be made aware that some kind of 'form' was going on; obsessive forms are quite obviously constructed to a plan. If our reviewer then pulled the plug because the repetition was pretentious and boring, or because the content seemed too slight to justify it, that's a legitimate response. Of course our reviewer has to spend a few more minutes looking at the poem, because they can't simply go 'Villanelle! Cool!' But is their ability to make a value-judgement hampered? Does anyone have any experience of this?

So even though "Haiku" is perfectly acceptable for published haikus, to me, it wouldn't work: that requires more knowledge than I have to appreciate what the author is doing.

Even 'Haiku' is a bit much for your true minimalist poet; poems in haiku magazines tend to be scattered across the page with no titles at all. One of the things I actually dislike about database-driven publishing online is that you have to have a title of some kind ;) Some poems get crushed under a title, poor things.

Gemma

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I recently submitted a poem to HASA for the first time. The poem is called 'Sirion', and is a voice from the aftermath of the third Kinslaying. The comments I got brought some of these 'decline issues' back into the forefront for me. I hope no one minds if I quote some of the comments (I understand that's acceptable, as long as the reviewer's anonymity isn't compromised). I'd be interested to see anyone else come forward with examples of poetry declines they found problematic.

Two declines seemed to me to be spurious, though I'm sure they weren't so to the reviewers in question. To understand the first, you probably need to know that the opening lines of the poem read 'We have taken our dead / to the sea; / we have tendered them.'
Capsule: Excess spelling/grammar/format errors
Comments: 'tendered'? - tender, v.: 'to make an offer to supply services or goods for a certain set price'

I would assume this should read 'tended', but given that reviewing is based on 'as is', I have no other choice than to reject this poem.

It's actually the reviewer who's confused their words here; the definition they cite refers to the intransitive form of the verb 'to tender', whereas the transitive form, meaning 'to offer [object] as payment', was the one used in the poem. The word wasn't meant to be 'tended'; there was no spelling mistake.

Given the compressed and associative language of poetry, misreadings like that may be easy; sometimes it can be hard to decide whether a phrase or word represents a mistake or a valid way of saying something different. How do reviewers best deal with it? Personally, I'd try to err on the side of caution, pointing out the apparent mistake but not declining for that reason alone. To do otherwise seems, IMHO, to disregard the potential complexity of what we may be reading. I don't know what other reviewers think about this.

The other review I found problematic picked up on the issue of summaries, and ties in to the earlier discussion on this thread. FYI, the poem's summary was: 'Brief dramatic monologue from the time of the final Kinslaying and the voyage of Eärendil.'

Capsule: Story not complete enough to review (WIP)
Comments: What I read didnt match with what was written in the summary at all. Should this not be poetry, rather than a dramatic monologue. Plus, in the case that I've gone completely blind today, where is Earendil?

I suppose the summary (which I'd be the first to admit is not the best summary in the world!) is potentially ambiguous, and the reviewer has read it very differently to what I intended - ultimately deciding (to judge by the capsule decline) that the story advertised doesn't exist . The term 'dramatic monologue', which I used in its sense as a poetic genre (referring to a poem spoken by a first-person persona), probably meant theatre to the reviewer. The reviewer also seemed to think that because the summary referred to 'the time of... the voyage of Earendil', that Earendil should have been explicitly mentioned in the poem (which, although his voyage is one of its subjects, he isn't).

The lesson would seem to be to write an unambiguous , jargon-free summary, though it's difficult when you didn't previously realize its ambiguity

An important issue a couple of reviewers picked up on is that the poem is relatively generic. We haven't yet discussed that much here, though it came up in one of the other decline threads. Obviously, different readers have different standards on how much explicit Tolkien reference is needed to make a successful fanfiction poem (as opposed simply to a successful poem). Personally, I don't much like proper names or highly specific instances of objects in poetry; I prefer imagery that is concrete while a touch universalized. A lot of the stuff I've written over the years is riffing on myth or historical events, in which the title is used to orient the reader while internal references are left non-specific. Those kind of poems naturally work for me as a reader, too. For some writers/readers/reviewers it isn't enough, and I understand why they would decline.

How generic is too generic, and is there a happy medium that allows poets to root their work firmly in Tolkien, while retaining a more universal resonance and avoiding packing cumbersome names and facts into the poem? Can that be identified objectively by some litmus test that might make it easier to formulate declines, or is it invariably going to depend on personal opinion? I ask reviewers who've declined poems on grounds of insufficient connection to canon, as I never have

One thing that didn't really come up in my recent batch of reviews was the mechanics of poetry itself. Other than one reviewer who suggested that the poem was too short, no one offered comment on structure, diction, rhythm, imagery - how the poem worked as a poem, in other words. That surprised me, as the poetry declines I write myself tend to include a lot of detail on those things. (Maybe authors hate them, though - who knows?)

Gemma

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Other than one reviewer who suggested that the poem was too 'short', no one offered comment on structure, diction, rhythm, imagery - how the poem worked as a poem, in other words.

I suspect that one reviewer was me - and I still find the last stanza absolutely haunting.

As a reader and reviewer, I thought it did work as a poem, I just wished that, given the potential there (and the terrible background that goes with it which the reviewer should know before reviewing it, IMO), that it went on for a bit longer. But I suppose that is personal bias, and should not have been put forth in the reviewing commentary.

*hangs head*

I don't usually review poetry - I feel utterly inadequate. Then again, I submitted something that was declined primarily because the summary was atrocious, not the writing style, per se.

The reviewing pool is a fickle place.

~Thevina

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Well, I read this set of poems and approved it, because I liked it very much, especially the first poem. It reminded me of parts of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," especially with the white lilies on the red stone. My only complaint was that, without the summary, you would not know it was a poem dealing with Sirion and I did not see a mention of Earendil anywhere. You could counter this by restating your summary to read, "...a poem set after the fall of Sirion, that deals with the survivors....," etc.

 

 

Re: poetry declines

Just on this:
One thing that didn't really come up in my recent batch of reviews was the mechanics of poetry itself. Other than one reviewer who suggested that the poem was too 'short', no one offered comment on structure, diction, rhythm, imagery - how the poem worked as a poem, in other words. That surprised me, as the poetry declines I write myself tend to include a lot of detail on those things. (Maybe authors hate them, though - who knows?)

It doesn't surprise me, really. Most people who reviewed it probably aren't poets or even experienced students of poetry - so they are going to review it more on a 'did it work for me' basis. Personally I think that's okay although I know some people would say that if you don't have an extensive knowledge of whatever genre it is you shouldn't be reviewing it. Myself, I consider it as a jury-of-peers who have to represent, in microcosm, the future archive readers, who also mostly won't be experts.

Also I'd have to say that most story reviews I've got don't tend to go into that fine a detail either so it isn't just a poetry thing. (I'm not complaining - I'm glad they reviewed it and even more glad if they took the time to leave any comment.) I'm sure most people who do get detailed reviews from you do appreciate them, though.

The tendered rejection would be making me scream - I thought you were managing composure very well there ;-) I guess it is always a risk, even in prose, where you use an unusual word. I think in poetry a bit more licence for word play should be allowed anyway, so even if I hadn't know that meaning of the word I don't think I would have called it a mistake - it's not like using loose for lose or spelling believe beleive.

Avon

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I think Gemma has a point here. The compacted language of poetry means that words are often used in a non-standard way. In this case, however, Gemma was using "tender" in a standard but not common form and the reviewer was insufficiently careful. And I assume the dramatic monologue form that Gemma is referring to is the kind used by Browning. In other words, it too is standard but apparently not a standard the reviewer was familiar with.

I think that reviewing poetry is even more difficult than reviewing submissions in general. Poetry is all about language and readers need to be open to being surprised and challenged by the way words are used. I have a doctorate in English literature, but because my area is the novel rather than poetry, I don't feel qualified to judge poetry.

 

 

Re: poetry declines

This sounds very frustrating for you. FWIW I reviewed, and (I think - gotta start saving my reviews!) commented on the spearpoints and waves image.

I have to say I read this several times over a few days, somewhat conflicted myself about the issue of 'generic.' I decided that given the title, and the compression of feeling and events in the poem, it did have sufficient connection. The quality of the poem itself was never a question in my mind.

I have to say I don't feel competent to write comments on structure, and my understanding of rhythm is very basic - it works to my ear or it doesn't. I suspect many other reviewers feel just as unequal to the task of specific commentary on the mechanics.

Can that be identified objectively by some litmus test that might make it easier to formulate declines, or is it invariably going to depend on personal opinion? I ask reviewers who've declined poems on grounds of insufficient connection to canon, as I never have

I don't think you'll ever get objective criteria, just as there are none for prose; it's all personal opinion. I have declined one poem for insufficient connection, and passed on others I thought questionable. If there is nothing in it that helps me place it, it just isn't connected. As a completely silly example:

Roses are red
violets are blue
sugar is sweet
and so are you

could be from any lover to his or her beloved. Even if there was a 'To Rosie from Sam' title on this, it's still too generic. But once you get beyond that, it's all personal.

BTW - I'm glad to see 'Sirion' published, as I hope you can tell, I liked it.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I hadn't meant to 'fish' for reviewer feedback for myself on this forum, but many thanks to those who offered it. It's fascinating to read your opinions (which are perfectly legitimate and have no need for justification, Thevina!)

Gemma

 

 

Re: poetry declines

I consider myself a fool who is blunt and uneducated when it comes to the stylistic elements of this most moving of ways to tell stories. I intend to mend this as soon as possible by having a long look at the "meter and poetry" thread. Generally, I tend to evaluate a poem for review simply by looking at the story it tells and if the rhyme it uses is pleasing to both eye and ear or most pleasing to either. Often I read the poem aloud or try to imagine (if the style fits it) what it would sound like sung by a bard or recited by e.g. a loremaster or as a nursery rhyme. Then I look at the story: I look at the basis for it in canon (however vague) and recall the Tolkien story to my mind, in order to compare the moods. Next up is the PoV check: does it fit the poet's emotion/or does it bring in a completely new angle? How would it feel if I did not know the character/the original story? Would the emotion be strong regardless? So, this is my layer's method of evaluating poetry. I usually only give capsule reasons, because I am seldom able to put my finger on a line and say: "this worked/this did not work because of a certain reason.
Here, that was my eurocent, for what it is worth!
Maka

 

 

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