moderating Poets on She Writes, putting yourself on the line, Reviewing women writers/friends work
(Revised)/ Well, here goes. It’s Saturday and I’m going to designate Saturday as a good day to clean house.
I’ve knocked myself out to be a good moderator of a sizable group of poets on a networking site. This past week I wrestled with the issue of posting poems or the titles of poems as links that make direct reference to suicide on the general comment wall. Ultimately I started a thread for such work with a content warning at the top and asked the writers in question to post there.
Four or five days later: two writers have left the group, and I have been accused of censorship.
I have confidence in my own judgment and I stand by my decision. Moderating a group of now over 230 women takes at least an hour and a half every day which I put in as a labor of love.
Next, I knocked myself out reviewing a new collection of poetry on my blog–the work of a woman who has been friend, encourager and now brought out what she refers to as her “debut” collection. I believe that my review is fair and that the responsibility for the inconsistent quality of said book and that the title– Neruda’s Memoirs— is inappropriate for a novice poet, perhaps for any poet but Neruda himself. I stand by this review and alas, our friendship is now, at best, in hibernation.
There are several things emergent for me in all of this. All of the nose-bumping and high-fiving in the internet bunny patch is well and good but maybe we’re all being too bloody nice to each other and we all need to get some backbone. It does get a little sickening– “Oh, I just loved your line about the teapot.” “And I loved yours about the plumber’s helper.”
I wonder how many times a day those of us schmoozing online are merely trying to “build platform” and selling ourselves out. If we put ourselves out there, don’t we want people to be honest? Am I not doing a disservice to another writer if I am mum about what I feel– how do we all improve if not by each other’s feedback? And why do groups have moderators if content issues on a given thread or site don’t arise?
These endeavors are everyone’s platform and I’m not out to get anybody. I’m out to feel safe in expressing how I really feel though, without being dissed, abandoned, or pushed away.
Perhaps that’s too much to ask even from adult women writers.
Dawn Potter said:
I have reviewed and been reviewed, and both positions can be exquisitely painful. I sympathize with both parties here. I do agree that a reviewer must be honest and fair, but I know I lie awake at nights tormenting myself over less-than-perfect reviews of my own books. This isn’t because I disbelieve the reviewer, or hold anything at all against her. Very often I think she’s exactly right about her reservations. Nonetheless, not being loved hurts. That’s just the human condition. All I can say is: if your friendship is supple and strong, it will weather this.
Thanks a million Dawn– I had expressly wanted you to see the review– I hoped it was fair and overall, positive. xxxJenne’
Elizabeth Young said:
Jenne, you have been true to yourself. It’s a lonely place often. Not everyone can take or appreciates honesty or professional critique. Like I mentioned before, this is what qualifies you to be the Moderator of Poetry on She Writes. I will mention that I saw a Psychiatrist for a number of years and she eventually passed away. Later I discovered that she committed suicide, because she was in fact bipolar herself and couldn’t live with her illness. Did her suicide affect me? Absolutely! I’m sure it affected many others also. You did the right thing not allowing certain poems directly on this site. May God bless and comfort you Jenne. I appreciate you.
Bless your heart, Elizabeth. I really appreciate this. sorry you had that jolt with the MD– I know how that goes. Love, J
I read it twice. Among other things, I see the terms “stunning lyrical moments,” “dazzling stanza after stanza” and “tour d’force” in this review. I can’t see you throwing empty compliments around, so I’d take those seriously. I also saw that in my second read, some of the more “negative” comments were the most careful, obviously intelligent and heartfelt. I’m not one to show my work to many, and always dread criticism, constructive or not, so I can empathize with every writer who’s gotten a rejection letter or a negative review. But we have to be both thick-skinned and open minded. You did nothing untoward. You knocked yourself out. And “those who mind don’t matter,” and “those who matter don’t mind.”
thank you Laurie– makes me feel immensely better. r u up so very late like me tonite? you might like my new stuff up at blogger…xxxj
Laurie Blair said:
Ultra-important P.S. — Your review, incidentally, made me want to read that book!
Sam Van Eman said:
Jenne, I’ve come to this situation a bit late. I’m so sorry to hear about your relationship with MD. You said, “I loved someone who is suddenly gone, turned into a block of ice, something colder and harder than stone. Now, great absence, in the deeps of the night.” These are grieving words. MD is a blog friend who has done some writing and interviewing for me at The High Calling, and so I feel loss for the both of you.
I appreciated your review of her book. It was tough but, I think, fair. I haven’t picked up my copy of Neruda’s Memoirs yet, but your review was the most compelling to date for me to do so.
No idea what has gone on behind the scenes or at your networking site, and I don’t need to know. I hope the two of you will be able to sit down for tea and work this out in person. I will say the same to MD.
Sam, you are the man of the hour. I greatly greatly appreciate this. things will either heal in time or not, and I would hope that my expertise would be of value to T.S. Poetry Press in putting out other titles. Thanks a million for your kind words on the review. xxJenne’
Oh, the bunny patch in the middle of the room. It’s something I’ve given a fair amount of thought to.
Clearly, some people write and post primarily as a means of social networking. It’s mutual backscratching, to use a g-rated term, and that’s not a sin. How else to explain Jingle’s popularity?
I think a lot depends on how important words and writing are to the poster. If someone is just throwing some hobby writing out there, then I think it’s cruel and unnecessary to point out its flaws. I wouldn’t think of much of someone who berates a weekend painter for not being Monet.
Next, I want to say that I LOATHE self-styled experts, usually hacks themselves, who go around handing out half-baked self-important advice. Get the dangling participle out of your own eye first, dude.
BUT, to some of us, language is extremely important. Some of labor over and weigh every word, and want to create the best writing we are able to. For this type of writer, if I see something obvious, I’ll say something (kindly) and leave it to them whether to act on it. Why? Because I value and appreciate suggestions from writers I respect. Not lecturing. Not sly one-upmanship. Suggestions. In fact, I would go so far as to say I count on cetain people being honest with me. Don’t tell me I’ve done brilliantly if I haven’t.
People react differently to serious suggestions. I once commented to a poetess friend that I was glad to see the fire back in her work, as I felt she’d been mailing it in for a while. I have a friend who lets me know if she thinks I’m not really trying, and I bless her for being my guard dog. But the poetess friend felt otherwise, and stopped being my friend, quite angrily, on the spot.
So…I would just say, know the person whose piece you’re commenting on, what level they’re at, and whether they seem to want suggestions or not. One thing I will NOT do is say I like something I don’t. But for beginners or kitchen table hobbyists, I can usually find something nice to say, and will if I can. For those I consider truly talented, I still bear in mind that our hearts and souls are (or certainly should be) in our work, and to be kind. But I will be more straightforward with them. I often find myself the only one who isn’t saying “wonderful!” on a piece that clearly isn’t. A little more honesty (NOT tactlessness or ego) would be refreshing in the bunny patch.
OMG Shay– may I call you Shay– and please put right my confusion over how to type your name in my impending feature of illustrious beautiful you and your work– this is wonderful and thanks so very much for posting it. I love “get the dangling participle out of your own eye first.” yes. You know, there are things I should have done differently; I guess I figure a book is a book is a book and it should get an honest read. I think my review has attracted more attention and may result at least in more downloads to the ol’ Kindle than the others…xxxj