Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Outside my comfort zone

This last week I did something that I was sure would be outside my comfort zone.

Turns out, my comfort zone has gotten pretty big in the last couple of years.

What I did was throw coming home to the wolves on a local poetry site for a segment they call "Blind Review Friday."

The idea is you give them your poem anonymously and other poets "workshop the hell out of it."

I was concerned that since I'm fairly new to writing anything that even remotely resembles a poem that I would be thin skinned and feel bruised and battered after the commenters were done shredding my words.

Just joking around, I told the moderator of the site that it was a good thing that the piece went up on a day that people liked my flash fiction because that ego bolstering would hopefully offset any ego bruising from people hating my poem.

But, as it turned out the whole experience was quite pleasant.

I really enjoyed the experience and thought that the people at this poetry site were honest, welcoming and full of constructive suggestions.

I was surprised at first by someone actually rewriting my poem, but it was intriguing to see what it looked like and felt like after he was done.

What he did was interesting, but it changed it almost beyond recognizability for me even though he used most of the same words.

The pictures generated in my head when I read his version were drastically different from the original and the sense of immediacy changed a lot for me from his point of view.

It was still beautiful. And maybe even more poetic. But changing the rhythm really altered the interweaving between the lovers and made the piece less erotic for me.

It's amazing that something as simple as removing a few words and changing an ing to ed could affect the feel of something that drastically.

That lesson in and of itself was worth the momentary worry of stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Workshopping is a good way to hone your skills and a great way to get tips on making better choices for impact.

The one thing I do know for certain now is that unlike prose, which can be edited and added to but still be "yours" poetry is not collaborative.

But poets are.



Thanks to Michael Salinger of ClevelandPoetics and everybody who commented.

Here's the link if anybody wants to see the actual criticisms and comments.


estrella05azul said...

Doing things out of your comfort zone usually isn't as bad as we might think before doing them :)

I liked the poem, but I'm no expert so no real comment to that part :)

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Estrella,
Simply liking the poem works for me. :0)

It was lovely to experience such helpful constructive criticism from this group of local poets.

And here's a flash...

I did something that I thought would be ever further outside of my comfort zone last night.....

But now I'm starting to think that my comfort zone doesn't have edges....

[more on that in a week or so]

and yes, it was legal.....


estrella05azul said...

Oh, and here I was thinking you had to wait for the bail to be set (in a week or so) :P

Karen from Mentor said...

That's when AAA really comes in handy...they can tow you OR bail you out of jail...

kind of an interesting combination..

OH! speaking of which? I was driving the other day and saw a place downtown that was called

Bowling, Billiards and Martinis

How great is that?

lindacassidylewis said...

Is that acceptible at that site for someone to totally rewrite your poem? I don't know, I guess if you have a poet teacher you would expect that, and maybe it's just that poetry is new to me, so I would never attempt to rewrite someone's.

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Linda,
The site is run by Michael Salinger who is a poet and a poetry teacher. So this segment is pretty much a "class."

My understanding of how it works is people submit a poem and anybody who wants to makes changes to it to make it better or suggests stronger words or rhyming schemes or line breaks...pretty much anything that they might do in editing their own personal work.

It was an interesting experience.

I do think though if someone submits a poem for this overhaul and then uses the group rewritten piece somewhere that it would no longer be truly work they could claim as their own. It would be a collaborative piece at that point.


Karen from Mentor said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that overall they liked the piece.


Kris said...

I think it's great that you did that!

For as long as I can remember, writing fiction has been my dream. But when it came to college, I may have majored in English, but it only involved taking classes where you read the great works of others. I was afraid of the peer review that would have occurred in a creative writing class. Once I got up the nerve to sign up for a fiction class, but I backed out at the last second. That's one of my biggest regrets.

Maybe if I'd put myself through peer review then, I wouldn't be a nervous wreck about sending my manuscripts out to agents and publishers for their opinions now.

Then again, I don't think anything could make that a comfortable experience!

Lauren C said...

Yes hooray! I'm a huge proponent of workshopping. Sure, there have been plenty of times when I haven't gotten much usable feedback, but just having other people read and react to my work - hell, just printing out a bunch of copies - has really helped me see the problems (or strengths) in each poem.

Really it's up to you to sort through your peers' comments and decide what works for you. Sometimes people get on crazy tangents, or nitpick, or rewrite your poem (personally I find that sort of wrong. because it's self-indulgent and really ain't helping the poet).
Or they just don't understand it... nothing is more disappointing than a roomful of people who all say "Well, I liked the images and the language and everything, but I have no idea what's going on."

Also, I think it's interesting that you said that poetry isn't collaborative, but poets are. That's a good point: I have some poet-friends who did a collaborative project, but they never worked on poems together. Instead they each wrote separate poems, traded them, and then wrote more poems inspired by each other's work. (It was a pretty cool project.)

Poetry is a very solitary art, I think. A direct conduit from one internal life (the poet's) to another (the reader's).
That's the magic of it. Oh, how I love it.

So I'm so very glad that you had a good experience :D

Karen from Mentor said...

I'm glad I had a good experience too Lauren. It's cool to meet new people and stretch my creative wings.
One of the poets from the site just started giving me links to readings in the area. So I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing my beret and turtleneck the next time you see me.
[where DID I put my bongo?]
Hugs lovely one!

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Kris,
I agree with you, I don't think much of anything short of a bonk on the head or heavy sedation makes sending your work out to publishers easier.


Geoffrey A. Landis said...

I like workshopping. Often what you get from workshops is feedback that's useful for the next poem, not the one you just wrote.

And the nice thing about what happens when somebody rewrites your poem... is that you still have your original poem! It's like you get an alternate-universe version, so you can see "oh, that'S what it would have been like if somebody else had written it" (but you still have your version, exactly the way you wrote it.)

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Geoffrey,
Thanks for stopping in. Oohh, alternative universes, now you're speaking to the fiction writer in me....
[starts waving her hands about and hopping up and down excitedly]

Time travel, things with tentacles and big Bambi eyes...

[notices people staring and gets a grip]

...or just getting a glimpse of something through another human's eyes....all good.

Karen :0)

Jesus Crisis said...

I enjoyed your poem and the subsequent discussion, Karen. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

Peace and poetry,

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey John,
I enjoyed the discussion too. Some of my work is here on the blog under "sensual sentences" and "free verse." There are three pieces in the poemblog at voxpoetica as well. [link in the sidebar]

I poked my head into your blog and saw that you're a musician as well as a poet. I'll stop back in to check your calendar for any upcoming gigs in my area.

I love the energy that comes with a live performance.

Thanks for stopping in.

Karen :0)

Cat Connor said...

looks up from work... I love that you did this Karen!

now back to work...

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow Cat you looked up? Let's not tell your editor. We don't want her to to lash you to your keyboard. [again]