So you had the Hatfield vs. the McCoys, the Montagues vs. the Capulets, and Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany. But add this new one to the list of the most tumutuous rivalries of all time: the poetry writers vs. the prose writers. There was a showdown at my writers’ group this afternoon, and well, it wasn’t pretty (headache, headache).
Basically, here’s how it went down. One of our members, a lady who’s a prolific poet, submitted five of her poems to be read and discussed for today’s workshop. This is within the group’s guidelines (you can submit up to five things as you don’t go over the total word count of 3,500), but quite a few of the members aren’t really too keen on poetry overall (personally, I don’t mind poetry, and I write it once in a while myself, but certainly, my heart’s more in novels and stories), so submitting five fairly lenghty poems was… well, let’s just say it took chutzpah, for sure.
So we started discussing the poems one by one. The first one, about three or four of the twelve or so members today made comments. The second one, maybe one or two members had anything to say. At this point, the lady was clearly annoyed and asked why people were remaining silent and not offering any feedback. Obviously, an awkward moment. Then it got worse. One of the quiet members commented that he found it tough to come up with things to say for all five poems, which pressed on the lady’s nerves even more. The day’s moderator, no shrinking violet in the speak-your-mind category, said something about how much more difficult it was to come up with constructive comments on poetry as opposed to prose, and by then the lady poetess had turned from defensive to downright angry (“Don’t put words in my mouth and tell me I’m angry!” she said, angrily).
Around this time, I offered up the point that there tended to be less feedback on poetry submissions overall so she shouldn’t take the “silence” personally, but I think by then she just didn’t want to hear it. Then another member pointed out two of the five submissions had been submitted before, and it seemed to him that she didn’t seem to have taken into consideration the feedback she had received before, and that’s why he was silent. Well, a few moments and a few more back-and-forths later, the lady got up and walked out of the meeting.
So it was definitely a memorable workshop, but also a really unpleasant one to watch take place. I don’t know; I totally get why the member was frustrated, but at the same time, you can’t really demand feedback from people who for whatever reason feel reluctant to give it. And when the members were explaining their reasons for not giving the feedback, they were really just being honest. I don’t know. It was just a bit too much drama Project Runway-style (I really wonder what the three new members thought of all of it), especially after having to deal with my aunt’s medical saga and the prima donna antics of certain choir members (at least I know that ego clashes in group situation are certainly not culture-specific).
Overall, it was all a big communication breakdown, I think, which is a shame as we’re all there to take part in something that we love: writing. So can’t we writers all just get along? I sure hope so. In that spirit, I dedicate this song to our group: