Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Worst Review/Critique you've ever gotten

After reading one of the more recent blog entries at Pointless Drivel, I began thinking about some of the things that have been said to me as a writer, whether it be in workshops or amongst my peers or even from editors. For the most part, even when these people were being their most negative, I was able to take their constructive criticism in the spirit in which it was given, and their occasional scorn with grace and good nature. But of course, there is always going to be at least one thing someone has said to you that really sticks in your craw, and you have a hard time letting it go. The words that haunt me are from nearly 4 years ago, when as a young writer, I was a member of Zoetrope Online. It's true I made quite a few friends while I was there, but the person who gave me this review was not one of them. Instead, it was penned by the editor of a poetry journal, so it made what he said that much worse, as I couldn't really tell myself they didn't know what they were talking about. In addition, he was a bit of a lurker, so I had to really think that he really objected to my poem. The review reads as follows:

It's not impressionistic, it's a lot of abstraction and generalized description. An excess of adjectives also. Look at all those adjective noun constructions throughout: Yawning canyons, rocky lips, starry abyss, single sliver, glacial teeth. Pretty cliched as well (cliched here as an overuse of dead metaphor). The poem needs specific images and concrete particularities. The use of the pathetic fallacy turns this into one high rhetorical move after another. This piece strikes me as an "idea" of poetry rather than the poem itself. There's no sense of an experience here in the generalities.

To say I think it's not working would be a reasonable deduction. I have to wonder what contemporary you're reading after a piece like this. Do you read any?

Now by no stretch of the imagination do I believe that the submitted piece was the best poem in creation, or even the best poem I have ever written, but those last two lines of that review... ouch. I've shown it to friends, and ask them if you got a review like that, wouldn't it make you not want to write anymore; and most of them say yes. But for me, it would be too easy to just quit, and it isn't in my nature to do that. Instead of depressing me, it just really pissed me off. It made me want to do it even more, just to spite him, and even though it did have a positive outcome, it still pisses me off a bit even to this day.

So the question I ask my fellow writers is this... what is the worst review/critique you've ever gotten... and what was its effect on you?


DutchBitch said...

I try to stay away from any reviews or critique... It is a wonderful world I live in... sigh..

Paul said...

Good question! I once got an English essay back from a prof who had always given me high marks, and his comments began like this:

This is crap.
And it's annoying crap, because I know you can do better - you just weren't trying.

I actually WAS trying on that one, it just fell flat. Still, it had the constructive criticism effect he was looking for, and I busted my ass for him the rest of that year.

D. B. Cooper said...

"You are a freak and a wanker!"

Given by a cop that caught me writing on the wall of the bathroom stall at WalMart.

For the record, I am a freak but not a wanker. He should fact check before he critiques.

MC said...

dutchy: hmmm... don't know what to say to that.

paul: Now that was harsh. Did he say anything about it to you personally after that too?

D.B.: I am sure that at some point before that getting caught, you were the latter... but I can see the anger at being called one when that act was not taking place.

Mr. Fabulous said...

I don't know if this fits, but after reading what Paul wrote I was reminded of an incident that affected me greatly in college.

It was in journalism class. I was sitting next to one of my friends as we were taking an essay test.

He had finished before I did, and so I guess he kept glancing over to me see if I had finished, because we wanted to leave together.

When we handed our papers in, the professor took us aside and accused us of cheating. He accused Zeke of cheating off me, and me allowing him to do it.

He said he would get back with us after he graded the papers.

It turns out I didn't do well on the test, and Zeke did. When we met with the professor again, he kind of chuckled at Zeke and made some remark as to it being obvious that he didn't cheat off me.

I always took that very hard. He made me geel very small. And it still bothers me to this day.

MC said...

Yes, Fab, that counts. I am sorry to hear that happened to you, because that just wasn't right.

Semaj said...

Man, that guy that reviewed your poem was a prick. I do like that you just kept writing, because a lot of people would've give up after something that mean.

MC said...

Let's just say, I keep tabs on the person who said it.