Thursday, August 06, 2009

Map of the Folded World reviewed at The Rumpus


A review is up on my most recent book, Map of the Folded World. It’s the first review that’s come out so far. Here it is:

http://therumpus.net/2009/08/trouble-on-the-way/

If you scroll to the bottom, there’s a link to a new poem. And by new poem, I mean NEW poem. I wrote it last week. That’s one of the truly fun (and potentially terrifying) things about Internet-based publications. Things can really move fast.

Reading this review, while still thinking about the MFA consulting thing from the other day, got me to thinking about the value of feedback, of being part of a conversation. It’s the great reason for wanting to participate in an MFA or PHD program. It’s why people go to residencies and conferences. It’s the great value of community. OK, sure. That’s easy to say, but it’s difficult to participate in at times.

Feedback is such an odd thing. In any circumstance. I remember being in my first creative writing workshop back in the 80s. I was a journalism major surrounded by English majors. Some of the things I heard and said I still remember (others, thankfully, not). Unless one is very strong (and maybe even not then), the things people say affect you (effect you, even). A poet friend of mine, Rebecca Aronson has a writing group that meets for a week every spring. I’ve been envious of that for years.

When someone says you are X, what do you do in response? Can you really ignore the pull of description? Do you look at yourself more closely to see if you are, indeed, X? Do you run from X like from a burning building? Do you embrace it as inevitable? Do you do all these things by turns? Are they good things or bad things?

Well, both, certainly. It can be wonderful or devastating. Praise can give one confidence to continue or it can give one a self-obsession that leads to the failure of the work. Same with negative criticism.

When I’m talking with people about their work (or reviewing [which I don’t do much of], but that’s a little different), I find it important to talk to them about what I see them doing. It’s like watching a film of oneself doing a sport. But not just to make one’s form better or more fluid. It’s also to help someone decide, and then to assist them in investigating, who their family is. By that, I mean the constellation of poets with whom they share some affinity. But there’s a drawback to that, isn’t there? The feeling that you just sit there in the shadow of previous, stronger poets . . .

Well, it’s necessary to describe what artists are doing. At least I think so. It helps them. It gives them something to chew on. And it helps us contextualize what they're doing. It assists reception. It’s a carnival mirror at times, yes, but often it will say something that gives us a new angle on something we thought was finished. I often wish I could be in a writing group again. Are there many people who are in writing groups not affiliated with a school?

Or people who hate writing groups? People who never read reviews of their work?

And then, as an addendum, as I was writing this an email came in asking if I’d be interested in leading a one-day public workshop in St. Louis this October. Now THAT sounds like fun! Anyone in St. Louis want to meet for pizza?

7 Comments:

At 8/06/2009 8:12 AM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

I think it's a matter of being lucky enough to find the *right* feedback. If you get in with a group of poets who have integrity and can shed their ego at the door, you have good, honest, and well thought out feedback.

If you get the other poets, then feedback can be confusing and disheartening.

 
At 8/06/2009 8:17 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

But often still fascinating, right? I mean, I'm a strong believer in what goes on inside my own head, and often such moments will give me wonderful uses of language I can steal for something, or incorporate directly into the poem at hand.

I adore "found" text and incorporated speech.

 
At 8/07/2009 7:21 AM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Sure, I'll meet for pizza and workshop in October! Man, I never get invited to run one-day workshops in St. Louis, and I'm from here...

 
At 8/07/2009 9:43 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

That will allow me the opportunity to pay you bak the $10 I owe you. And you'll get to meet my family, for which I'll charge you $10.

I'm really looking forward to it. This will be the first time I've done something like this outside of a unversity setting.

 
At 8/07/2009 12:27 PM, Blogger Anne said...

When in October? There's a chance I may be in STL for a couple of days in late October...

 
At 8/07/2009 12:29 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Shoot, never mind, I just found the date on your sidebar. It is the following weekend that I might be there. Oh well.

 
At 8/08/2009 5:21 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Anne,

Sorry to miss you... if only Kansas City was as energetic as St. Louis...

 

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