9 may. 2005

My own blogger's code says not to criticize the poetry of another blogger who is known to me primarily, or principally, as a blogger, and is not a quote unquote famous poet. That is, if Pinsky gets a blog, he is still fair game, but if I didn't happen to like a poem by [insert your name here] I wouldn't criticize it publicly.

The reasons are . . .

1) if you are a relatively unknown poet, young, old, or middle-aged, you probably get enough rejection or neglect anyway.

2) If you are mediocre and wise enough to know it already, you don't need me to tell you. If you're not wise enough, you'll just think I'm mean. Which I would be being in this case.

3) It is a cheap trick in an argument about some other substantive issue to say, "Yeah, but your poetry's no good either." Let's not go "there." Then you would point out I'm no Clark Coolidge myself, and so on.

4) Blogger solidarity. If you're a blogger and get a poem published in a nice place, I feel happy for you even if I think your poem is not one I would enjoy upon reading that same publication. It kind of falls into a different category for me.

I make no claims of virtue for this "code." I suspect many of you have some version of it, or maybe the issue doesn't even come up because you are much nicer than I am in the first place. I need it as a kind of "check" for my own occasional mean-spiritedness.

11 comentarios:

David Koehn dijo...

Hmm...I dislike such codes. Nothing is off limits to me. My own mean spiritedness is its own reward / punishment. Anyone I write about at TGAP I send an email to...even if it is not a "positive" review. No matter what one has to say, one must live by one's words. In my small-minded world, each individual's combination of acumen and sensitivity is what should drive response. Rigorous honesty is the best policy. So, I can't allow myself to get off the hook when I substitute spite or rancor or irritation or blind negativity for what I might rationalize as "honesty." When I am accountable toward those I write about I find myself far more willing to be rigorous rather than scerbic. It's easy for me to be scerbic, it is more difficult for me to accountable for my acumen. I have no problems writing about a blogger (or anyone else) I knew if I felt so inclined.

I commented here because I have thought about this issue lately and considered such a "code." But in the end couldn't get myself to buy into it.

Jonathan dijo...


"Scerbic" is an interesting coinage. A cross between acerbic and scurvy?

I've mainly seen you (DK) comment on well-known mainstream poets at your blog, and that often than not in laudatory terms, so I'm not sure you need the "code" anyway. I'm sure that now that I've formulated my rule in words I'll find the occasion to contravene it.

Laura Carter dijo...

Perhaps you could speak generally, & we could all learn something?

Jonathan dijo...


I'm not sure what you mean, Laura... you are being a little too cryptic.

Greg dijo...

Well, I'm glad most of your comment still lives somewhere. Sorry about the delete. Anyways, I just blogged on your code. So I'll just copy here those comments:

1. Criticism should not be about rejection. And it?s certainly not about neglect.

2. A wise and mediocre poet would always appreciate constructive (even deconstructive) criticism. An unwise and mediocre poet needs it even moreso.

3. Agreed, but not really germane.

4. This is the one that I think really needs reviewing. Part of me agrees, especially the sober side of me. But then the intemperate side suggests that this is the road paved to blogger's hell.

Jonathan dijo...


Good points. I respect your position on this. Don't worry about the deletion of my comment on your blog. It gave me the opportunity to formulate my own Code in writing, as I had never done before.

Laura Carter dijo...

My bad, y'all. I was second-guessing a bit & thinking you might have a poem in mind; if so, wd like to hear general comments that don't hurt feelings but cd be helpful. That's one thing I enjoy about yr blog.

Tim dijo...

I think I probably agree, though I don't think I've ever articulated it to myself.

It's a bit different if someone sends me something (e.g. a chapbook) or points me to a piece of work and explicitly requests comment. In a case like that I'd feel I'd been given license to offer up both positive and negative critique. If I thought it was truly awful, though, I'd probably just say nothing--it wouldn't seem worth the time.

Nick Piombino dijo...

Occasionally poets are supportive of one another's work for various reasons. The fact is that if you are a poet, other poets are the competition. No poet of any experience or intelligence takes the opinion of other poets all that seriously, because, unless they are very psychologically disabled, or not very intelligent, or extremely inexperienced, they have figured this out by now. If you are kind to other bloggers who are poets that is nice; but if you are a poet, and keep your harsh opinions to yourself about other poets-especially peers- you are just being normally intelligent and astute. Poets who go on and on about their apparently "objective" estimates of other poets work are- to my ear -very boring and inept; unless they are anthologists or editors or publishers themselves. Then they are just doing a job they have chosen for themselves. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing amiss about liking or enjoying another poets' work and writing and or blogging about this. But to put yourself forth as a poetry "critic", somehow in a position to make objective judgements about the accomplishment of other contemporary poets when you are a poet yourself is confused and/or manipulative. My own experience is that people who publish my work tend to support it, at least for awhile; most other poets seem-quietly, it is true- but clearly- terribly "ambivalent" about my work, Especially the poet "historians", poeticists, and critics. Like, who cares? It's about as important to me as what flavor ice-cream they like or if they are vegetarians or meat-eaters. Save it for the autobiography.

David Koehn dijo...


Can't agree...but I can see why in a superficial glance you might say such.

Hmm...your definition of "laudatory" must be very different than mine.

Hmmm...maybe I have only commented on "well-known mainstream" poets. I will reflect on this. Though I'm not sure Sandra Lim fits the well known category. And I'm not sure Conoley or Gander fit the "mainstream" category. Though I'm sure percentage wise you must be correct in asserting "mostly."

Hmmm....I border on incompetent at at times: "scerbic," hmmmm. My own mind works very hard to keep me humble. And rightfully so.

Without fail, I find that asserting such codes immediately call into being the need to flout said code.

So it is...

Jonathan dijo...

Other poets are the competition. Imagine if movie reviews were done only by movie directors. It would never work. On the other hand rivalry is not the only possible motive for definining relations among poets.

Perhaps my first impression of David K's blog was formed by its glowing assessment of Pinsky as the world's greatest anthologist, and rather respectful, even glowing posts on Hass, Justice, Rich... thus my supposition that the blogger's code would not apply as much. He does deal with lesser known figures too, although mostly (not at all exclusively) within a kind of mainstream poetics that is not as heavily represented among bloggers.