January 11, 2010 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Always such a strange thing, when you’ve been living with something in your head for so long, and then a person who’s never read it (or met you) strolls in to judge whether it works or not. And no matter how many times each of you acknowledges the subjectivity of it, that never matches up to the reality of reading feedback.
There’s a small Scottish work-in-progress program that allows writers to send in work to be critiqued by other writers – all done anonymously, though one assumes that in a literary community as small as Scotland’s (which often feels as though it’s about 68 people, tops), eventually someone will pick up a literary magazine and say ‘oh yes, her; didn’t I advise her that strophe was juvenile?’ I won’t link to it here in case they get randomly flooded, but anyone who’s interested can get in touch and I’ll send along the info.
I sent about twenty poems — everything I had that was either in progress and as polished as I could make it without shredding it, or ‘fixed’ but still unpublished. Not long ago, the evaluation arrived in my inbox, so while the .pdf was loading I was telling myself how calm I was WHILE OF COURSE I WAS NOT CALM IN THE SLIGHTEST.
Thankfully the response was fairly nitpicky, and overall quite positive. Those don’t contradict each other; whenever I’m critiquing things, I don’t quibble about word choice when the overall structure is a disaster, and the latter rarely occurred here.
So having skimmed through the criticism, wincing on occasion (especially with regards to some of the poems already in circulation — ooh, ouch), I need to sit down with each poem and think carefully about the comments. The final choice, of course, is entirely mine, but even if I don’t change a word, considering the anonymous reviewer’s thoughts allows me to mentally clarify what I’m trying to accomplish here.