Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Comments on Poetry

How do you respond to comments on your blog posts?

This is a question that nags at me from time to time, as it probably does for many bloggers, both newbies and veterans.

I consider this blog to be a personal/poetry blog–which means, basically, I write about anything that strikes my fancy. It’s all very flexible and irresponsible,  just the way I like it.

When people comment on a prose post, I feel comfortable addressing their comments directly, agreeing or slightly disagreeing, giving more information, or whatever.

But when I post a poem, my instinct is to step back and let people comment without much input other than thanks. It’s because the poem is a crafted item, an object, just as much as if I knitted a blanket. If someone likes or doesn’t like the color or pattern, what comeback do I have about something so subjective?

I’m not a fan of poems that are outrageously obscure, but I don’t think readers have to be spoonfed. While there should be some direction, I believe a poem should have space for interpretation. If anyone’s interpretation is completely off the mark from what was intended,  it could very well be that I did not craft that poem very well and it needs some revision. Despite our best efforts, it is hard to be completely objective about our own work, so it pays to at least listen to what other have to say about a piece. If my response seems as if I’m on the defensive, then I feel I may be discouraging honest opinions.

Also, does the format make a difference? After all, this is a blog, which by definition, I think, means it’s interactive. Do readers want to know more about a poem from my perspective–such as a poem’s origin or my explanation of its meaning–or are they content to let it stand on its own?

What’s your take on commenting on poems and the poet’s response? In general, do you go back and read the response to your comments? On your own blog, do you welcome respectful disagreement in your comment section or do you want people to be politely silent if they do not share your opinions?

[This post was included in the June 2012 edition of the Third Sunday Blog Carnival.]

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011

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Comments on: "Comments on Poetry" (45)

  1. Hi Sweepy, I write more poems than prose and I love reading the comments on my posts. What I don’t like is vague, one word comments, sometimes makes one wonder whether the reader has read what I’d written or is just blog hopping and leaving a word or two as a formality.
    I enjoy reading and replying to respectful disagreeable comments, Interesting post…

    • Ha. I know what you mean but maybe it’s just someone’s way to let you know they were there but didn’t know what else to say. Otherwise, they may have left without commenting! I’m glad you weighed in here! xox

  2. Hi Adrienne:
    First, I thank anyone and everyone who comments. One of the principles I’ve tried to have in my leading classes is using Doug Lipman’s, and then Liz Lermans, style of critique: when we are only allowed to say “thank you” without having to justify or get defensive, we take the chance to THINK about the other person’s POV.
    If we take them as suggestions from their referencing, their side of things, we can absorb what will make us think, absorb what does resonate, and just move on from the rest.
    When it’s a personal attack, and there are those cases, that’s different. Thanks for posting. Move on.
    I DO wish I had more people to share their opinions as opposed to being silent. If it’s said with respect, then as Sulekha above said, it can foster not only respectful dialogue, but I’ll learn more about what brings people back OR scares them away from my writing. Silence does not inform me.

    If I was performing, and the audience was stone silent, no applause at the end…did they hate it, did it make them think, did what I do affect them somehow, someway? I’d wonder and beat myself up without the feedback of laughter, or awwws, or applause. Silence does no good, in my opinion.

    • Exactly, Stu. That is the angle I was coming from, just accept the comment and thank them. It’s this newfangled technology called a “blog” that’s made me rethink it. Your analogy of silence after a live performance is interesting. But is there a different mindset with the different medium?

  3. There is a fine line here – somewhere. What poetry I’ve written is pretty transparent, but if someone were to ask me “What does it mean?” I would feel compelled to answer “What does it mean to you?” Art is like that – eye of the beholder and all.

  4. I think you’re on the right track. My blogs haven’t generated many replies but when there are, I like to comment back as soon as possible on anything that isn’t poem related. Replying back to every comment is nice because when you post a specific blog entry, you are giving your thoughts on a particular matter and welcoming a conversation. Poems are different though, a poem is a highly thought and crafted work of art. Unless the commenter asks for clarification, they are probably showing their appreciation for what you have created, and usually don’t expect a comment back. Kind of like sending a thank you card to someone who just sent you a thank you card for a gift you have given them. I hope that all makes sense. Sorry for rambling on.

    • No, that makes perfect sense, Jeffrey. There are some great analogies coming through in these comments. I like yours of thanking the thanker, also that a poem is a gift. As you know, sharing a poem really is putting yourself out there. But it’s a gift thrown out there to the wind–you don’t know who’s going to catch it. The blog format makes it feel as if the counter acknowledgment is needed, even if just to show appreciation for them bothering to read it.

  5. I like getting some reaction or comment – it helps to see one’s poem from another viewpoint.

  6. I try to thank anyone who comments and I welcome different points of view as long as the comments are made in a respectful way…that said, sometimes, I don’t know what to say or I don’t have enough tome to reply. so I just leave it.

    • Just like commenting, replying can take a lot of time, especially when you want to be thoughtful. Sometimes I wait before answering just to let the comments sink in. Even if the only appropriate response is “thanks” I try to do it so that readers don’t think they wasted their time.

  7. Sweepy I feel your pain lol If anyone reads my blog they know that beside images I usually take time to hopefully inform or entertain with my writing. When I get a response like..nice images or you take great pics or my all time favorite ” Good PIcs” ??? I sometime feel like a women who complains that people only like her for her beauty not her mind. I want to yell I HAVE A MIND Lololol
    You can tell those who have not really read your blog but are just commenting as little as possible to get you to reciprocate, which I usually do with the same passion 🙂

    http://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/06/candid-silhouettes-on-vero-beach.html

    • I think that blogging and commenting is a whole new art form and it takes a while to figure out how to do it well, though some never bother to learn the tricks of the trade. Believe me, Jim, you are more than just a pretty face! ;p

  8. comments, complements, condolence. like and dislikes . we all want to be vindicated for our efforts. from both sides. response to a poem can the understanding of the reader or a simple a I was here or there., thank you is all ways nice, but if a person make a statement about the piece then it should garner a response from the author. some time i don’t leave a comment as i want to think about the poem or post to make a good response and come back later to comment. i am giving this a lot of thought, and will be back with more to say. thank you and god bless

    • Exactly, Roy, I think both the blogger and the commenter want to be acknowledged. Whatever the response is has to be on a case by case basis. Any time you want to weigh in on this, please do!

  9. Sweepy, good questions – very good questions. First a word about obscure poetry. Remember back in the day, just a few decades ago when the trend was toward mystifying and cryptic poetry that nobody could understand? To be published in lit magazines your writing had to be enigmatic – and the more nebulous in meaning the better. Funny thing is, everybody pretended to appreciate this style but no one understood a frig’n word. What kind of hypocrisy is this?

    On how do I respond to comments on my blog post… I like your take on responding to prose comments versus poetry, and feel the same as you. Two different worlds. Of course I’ve never posted a solitary poem. I’ve thought about it, but the reason I don’t is, not because I don’t think my readers are too dense to ‘get it’ without explanation, but because I enjoy interaction, and poems by themselves aren’t often conducive to conversation. So my modus operandi in the blog world is different than in more traditional publishing.

    • I hope that trend toward obscure poetry is over. Sometimes I wonder…

      That’s an interesting point you make about incorporating the poem into the post. I’ve done incorporation and stand alone and there really is a difference in the type of comments they receive, if they get comments. How do you feel about posting poems at all, and are you actively seeking publication?

  10. I think poems are like works of art, open to interpretation and could get very subjective especially those ones that are really so open and quite vague. I don’t write a lot of poems anymore (used to) so mine’s mainly prose, essays, easier to interpret and pretty straightforward, for the most part. I appreciate comments as long as they are polite and I see that I was not misinterpreted at all. If I feel that the reader got something wrong and ends up attacking me in some way, then I do go back to clarify as politely as I can. Personally, when I read something (a blog) where I tend to strongly disagree with the author, I don’t really comment about the point so much because my take is that it’s the author’s universe and he/she is entitled to his/her opinion. It’s his/her ‘space’ so let him/her express whatever. I just think to myself that anyway, I do have the choice not to read or not to come back if I get pissed off, LOL!

    • Yes, Joy, I agree with you to a large extent. I consider someone’s blog to be like their home, and they can do what they want in their own home. Even blogs I love will have a post I hate every once in a while, and I’m sure there are some posts of mine that are distasteful to some, but I don’t condemn a blog for that. I also pick my battles. I may voice respectful disagreement if I really feel strongly about something. Other times I just comment on the part I agree with.It’s just hard enough finding time to comment at all!

  11. I do not write poetry but I did belong to a poetry critique group for a couple of years as I wanted to learn how to make my writing more fluid and descriptive. For me, the great thing about poetry is that, when you read, it touches some chord inside you and fills you with feeling. Poems can be like little jewels and some of course, sparkle more than others. The poem should stand for itself but if the writer wants to give some perspective or idea of its origin, that can be interesting.

    My take on comments about poetry is that, considering we’re not experts, we should only say how we relate to it/them, and keep silent if we didn’t. I agree with Joy that poems are open to interpretation and comments can be very subjective and possibly unhelpful to the writer.

    • I find that even I get an opinion from someone who likes poetry but doesn’t know much about the mechanics of it, I still appreciate their comments. Knowing any reaction is helps me figure out how I’m coming across. I do agree that as far as my input, the poem should speak for itself.

  12. I’m torn about receiving comments. I often turn them off. Or private the whole damn site. Or switch sites. But when I find a poet I enjoy I like to comment and often in depth. I think it fun.

    • Offering a poem can fee like exposing raw flesh, so I can totally understand the need to limit access. I very much enjoyed your comments on my poetry because you delved into the more technical aspects. It was like talking shop! ;p

  13. I think a poem is a gift to the reader, to interpret and respond to as he or she must because of individual personal experiences. What I the poet believe I am saying may not fit with what the reader is understanding – and that’s OK. When the poem is out there, it is no longer wholly mine – it is yours, too.

    That said, I love to know what poets were thinking and feeling when writing the poems I like, and I enjoy sharing why I write what I do. But I also accept how others react to my words – and am often humbled by their reactions.

    • I so agree, Diane. Once a poem is out there, it belongs to the reader. Generally, the whole point of a poem is to cause an emotional response, and that can vary with each person. I worry a little that knowing the poets intentions changes the experience for the reader. Perhaps they will change their mind about what the poem means to them based on the new knowledge.

      • Yes, a reader might understand a poem differently knowing what the poet intended. It might work the other way, too – the poet might gain a fresh understanding of his or her own work after learning what another sees in it. I hadn’t realized that until I read your comment. Do you think so?

      • Yes, I agree, that definitely is the case. The opportunity for poets to interact with readers in the way is relatively new. I wonder if this makes the experience richer for everyone?

  14. Hi Sweepy. 🙂

    You’re right, not many people know how to comment on something so subjective. And that’s okay too when you consider some people don’t handle criticism well at all whether it’s good or bad. I loved how you compared poems to quilts- they don’t always suit everyone’s tastes.

    I just started a Tumblr site for my poems because I don’t really want comments. They are what they are. Maybe I’m a literary snob but most people who don’t write poetry can’t critique poetry anyway other than “Wow, that was nice/cool/neat/amazing etc.” LOL 😀

    • If the average person could learn how to appreciate poetry, maybe us poets would be published more often! :p I’m actually thinking of a project that I hope will point people in that direction, a little poetry public relations!

  15. I have a hard time responding to comments unless they are direct questions, or the comment implies they need further information… aside from my current blogging project because I do not want to gve too much away!

    • That’s an interesting point. Do you mean that you think you would reveal too much of yourself? I do find that by replying to the comments, I am taken further into the subject matter beyond the original post. Sometimes I feel the need to be pull back a little but sometimes I’m ok with giving more.

  16. When I first started blogging I didn’t reply because of course I was using blogger and they set it up where replies are a task. I like replies directed to the person I am replying to. Some people’s comments don’t always deserve a reply in my opinion. Yes a thank you for commenting is nice but, who wants a page full of thank you for commenting? I don’t, I want a page full of let’s get to know each other and what do you really think of my post… kind of comments. As you know I write poetry as well and I think if someone comes up with another meaning then what you intended it is a good thing not a lack on the poets part. The English language is vast and a word we use may mean one thing to us and something else to another. When I write about loss generally I am speaking about death because I am married so no loss there but, many take it as a loss of a mate. I guess I take having more meanings than my intended one as a compliment because writing for allpoetry.com taught me that. No two people are the same so they should get something useful to them out of your poems and it might not be what you expected. The great thing about poetry is you don’t have to stick to the same form you can make it anyway you want it. We all have our own personal “flow” and that flow should not be changed just because someone doesn’t understand how we (the poet) feels. Some people will never understand the true meaning behind the poems and that’s ok because we do and plenty of others will too. When it comes to critiques of someone’s poetry, why on Earth would a poet give a second thought to someone who hasn’t even attempted to write one in the first place. You cannot in my opinion critique what you have not tried. That’s like saying all chocolate ice cream tastes horrible but, you only eat strawberry. For anyone to do that is just not worth acknowledging.
    As far as wanting to know the meaning behind a poem, I don’t know how anyone could ask that unless they didn’t read it properly. You don’t need to reply if you don’t want to especially if someone is making you feel like you have to defend yourself. I personally enjoy your poems or whatever you write even if I don’t always get a chance to comment…
    I hope I have helped since I took up half a page by commenting… lol

    • Excellent comment Jenni. You and anyone else can take up as much room as you need. I’m of the opinion that the blog post is my turn to talk and the comment section is yours. I’m glad people feel comfortable to open up. I do feel lame sometimes when a page is full of just “thanks for commenting” and if I see this as a trend, I’ll do a group thanks but at least mention people by name. There are so many good blogs out there to read, they don’t have to read mine, so I’m grateful if they do.

      What I’m really learning here is that it’s ok if the interpretation is different from what I had intended. You gave a good example. Although not everybody will “get” you, somebody will. You definitely helped me see things in a new light. Thanks! ❤

  17. I do try to respond to comments on my blog and try to remember to go back to see if there is a reply to a comment I’ve made. Sometimes I just forget though. At any rate, I do welcome all comments. I don’t write much poetry. I think maybe one or two and it was just came pouring out. I would think so, comments to poetry can run the gamut because people read different things or put different meanings on them.

  18. This is such an interesting discussion, Adriene! I haven’t shared any creative pieces, but as I put myself in your shoes, I’m not sure what kind of responses I could give the comments I’ve seen on some of your posts. =P “Thank you”?

    Personally, I love discussion on my blog, whether or not the person agrees with me!

    As for responses, I often subscribe if I know that the person will say more than “Thank You” and may even ask me a further question! =)

    • If all someone says is “nice poem” then there really is no other response but “thank you.” But often, a reader will say a little something extra, like, “this reminds me of when I was a kid.” In that case, I would say something about childhood. The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that even a small gesture is valuable. So, I guess I’ll continue to try to reply to all, not knowing if they’ll come back to read it or not. ;p

  19. Great conversation you’ve started! As a commenter, I sometimes want to show support or let the blogger know I liked the post, but don’t always know what to say. This is especially the case with a creative piece where my response to it may be at a visceral level that isn’t easy (or maybe just takes more effort than I have time for) to express in a brief response.

    I rarely have the time to go back and look at responses to my comments, but I really like seeing them because I know the blogger read and cares about it (agree or disagree).

    As a blogger, I try very hard to respond to every comment because I want my readers to know that I care about and appreciate their comments, I want to build loyalty to my blog and I want to keep conversation going. When responding, I try to make it clear that I understand the key points they are making through my response. I will often put more effort into responses to comments that the reader clearly put more effort into, but will always at least thank the commenter.

    I’m not a poet but I could see how you might want to just stand back and listen rather than talk and what would be most appreciated as a commenter would simply be acknowledgement that you heard me and appreciated what I had to say.

    Thanks for sparking the conversation!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you joined in. I know what you mean. It is hard to comment on a creative piece sometimes. I always feel the need to be profound or learned, or like you said, it’s hard to put the comment in words. As a blogger, I know how appreciated comments are so I find something to say. It could simply be a matter pulling out my favorite line of the piece or stating what I feel is the overriding quality (it’s passionate, or haunting). LIke you, I think replying helps build an audience.

  20. Hi Sweepy –

    I often have troubles commenting on poetry. For me, I feel like I have interpreted them wrongly. A friend of mine told me a while ago that you don’t have to understand the poem entirely. You only must feel it. I’m still working on that but I do see his logic. 🙂

  21. […] Joyce presents Comments on Poetry posted at Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World. At the heart of this post is the question: How […]

  22. I’m always grateful when a reader takes the time to express what they felt or thought about a piece, especially when they quote a particular line that moved them, or draw a conclusion which I hadn’t even thought about at the time.

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