Critiquing and/or Constructive Commentary.

a writing by Denis Barter

Where do we draw the line?

So where do we draw the line that criticism should not overstep? How can we comment sincerely and succinctly, on a composition that shows little structure, without we offend? I believe most of us are well aware that diplomacy and common courtesy are given essentials, and should be kept uppermost in our thoughts when we think to comment. Any time we think to critique work of others, there is a perceived limit to what we can or cannot say, if we would achieve our intention. No matter how poorly a piece is composed, in my opinion blunt force criticism is never an acceptable answer. On the other hand however, neither will I offer or present favours and encouragement to a budding writer, that I think, does not justifiably deserve it.

Offering accolades for poorly executed work, often does more harm than good. - so I have discovered. On the other hand, we should not allow ourselves to become too analytical nor scathing in our criticism of work presented. Especially so, when it is the work of a fledgling writer that we read. Despite what some think, none of us are born ‘experts’, so on specific occasions, when it is evidently clear there is promise in what we read, a modicum of encouragement is definitely a plus, and this should not be denied. The recipient of helpful and constructive commentary (as opposed to criticism of a scathing nature) will most likely appreciate a thoughtful and considered analysis. I know that such offerings have helped me on several occasions, and are never regarded as a ‘put down’!

Admittedly, it is not always easy to remain polite or as constrained as one might think when little more than ‘gobble-de-gook’ is evident, and the predominating factor of a composition! Personally find, at such times, it best to say little or nothing, except for that rare occasion, when one might suggest a different approach to a subject. One that would be acceptable and welcome. Everyone is entitled to personal likes and dislikes, but when it comes down to expressing and putting forth personal views and feelings - about which we may feel strongly - then our opinion or analysis may not always be welcome. If carried to the extreme, ill comments or criticism can, and often do, foster anger and acrimonious animosity between members, to the detriment of all.

Since the Internet became available to all - rightly so - there has been a proliferation of poetry sites that cater to poetry and poets that follow all genres. However, many are little more than sops that feed the ‘egos’ of some who would have us believe they are the modern reincarnation of Shakespeare. Few possess anything close to his skill and ability no matter what they think! I’m sure most of us have encountered some of the offerings such sites place before us as we browse? Too many I have chanced or stumbled upon, are not worthy of a more than a passing glance. Of course this is again, a generalisation on my part and reflects purely my personal likes and dislikes, and is not applicable to all sites, for there are a number of quality, excellently maintained, and well patronised sites. However, one has to take the time and trouble to make an in depth search to find them.

Whenever I come across a new site, a quick glance at some of the material proffered, will often determine as to whether or not it is going to be of interest to myself. In most instances, a quick perusal of a few pieces posted, is sufficient to send me looking elsewhere, for a site where I hope to find quality offerings. Finding just one site with quality, makes for a successful browsing session. However, although it is not my intention to appear patronising, I will readily admit that of all the many sites I have discovered, and to which I have signed on as a Member - with most having been found wanting within a short time, and from which I have decamped quickly! At best, a few days of membership is generally sufficient for me to decide if and what I see, will suit my mien? However, of those I have visited and remained a member for any length of time, Voices Net stands head and shoulders above the competition, and appears to possess a number of quality writers/poets. It is thought to be one of the better sites I personally, have discovered in quite a time.

Altogether, there are four ‘quality’ sites with which I continue to keep my membership alive. This after a series of long and frequently frustrating searches over the past fifteen years. It is within these four select sites that I have discovered a fair degree of excellence and some first-rate poetic offerings. Unfortunately the general trend is for much promise, but with little substance found! Far too many sites seem to focus on membership numbers and little more! Put another way, they seek quantity rather than quality! However, even within such sites as these, there are a number of poets that show promise, and given encouragement and direction, may well develop further. These are writers who ask for and appreciate kindly critique, and/or guidance when it is offered, in a suitable manner.

My hope is that I’ll be privileged to see and read more of the quality that most readers seek. Those folks who enjoy the challenge of writing poetry of all genres, to attain a standard of excellence seldom seen elsewhere. Unfortunately this can be a tedious task, for all too often there is a great deal of dross to sift through before one finds a worthwhile offering which warrants our time, help or guidance.

Please understand, and I trust most readers will understand, this diatribe or ‘rant’ as some might term it, is purely my personal take on what I see as a problem with so many poetry sites. Doubtless there are many aspects to this matter, that I have not mentioned. Some of my comments may cause some readers to disagree with my conclusions and personal persuasions, but that too, is a privilege everyone can espouse in a polite and courteous manner if it suits them so to do. In the meantime, I shall endeavour to write: hone: tweak, and rewrite my own compositions, until I manage to achieve an acceptable degree of competence. When I reach the point where I feel I can no longer improve; that any further editing will cause a deterioration of what I have written, then and only then, will I post what I have composed - hopefully for the reader’s pleasure.


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