(Top 101) #29. When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout

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:

29. When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout

4 Responses to (Top 101) #29. When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout

  1. lady p says:

    agreed, way too much drama—^^ then again this saga has gone on & on at that group, aggressively exacerbated by certain ‘facilitators’. my back story is how many times i’ve read peoples’ stuff when they submitted over the word limit even though it was hardly even readable and/or not my general taste. reading & preparing for discussion is par for the course for workshop; attacking a single member is rude.
    As Robert Penn Warren has been said to have said, “Poetry is the great schoolhouse of fiction…this literary specialization in America [i.e. refusal of and ignorance of poetry] has actually hurt our literature (Writers on Writing v2).” a pity we can’t just focus on the writing. still, it’s interesting how even describing the incident in a blog post is also a kind of contribution to the ‘drama’…or just plain ‘processing’ an ‘event’ as the dramaturgists might say…

  2. lady p says:

    ‘love breaks down’ – kkk, cute.
    xo to c.k.

  3. lady p says:

    a little follow up:
    things looked rough during pre-workshop submission time this week: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/13259974/remove_facilitate_nov2010.doc so I broke out my socio-linguistics course tools and did a little lexis analysis. just doing that stuff makes me feel better – analysis with words – great stuff.
    even so, i was ambivalent about showing up…just didn’t want any more headaches over it. but i read the submissions and then felt obligated. so i went & it turned out to be the most enjoyable workshop of the 5 or 6 i’ve been to. there were 3 moderators (formerly also referred to as facilitators).

  4. lady p says:

    i meant to say there were 3 moderators, so that helped.

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