Friday, May 12, 2006

A Bird in the Hand is Worth…?

We are having such peculiar weather at the moment. It was beautiful yesterday and today it’s hot and then thunder, lightening and showers! As most Irish people would say – that’s Irish weather for you.

Anyway, the weather is some long-winded way of getting round to what I’m thinking about at the moment. I have 4000 words to write on a topic that goes something like this: modernist writers attitudes to the present were shaped by their attitudes to the past – discuss with reference to two poems by T. S. Eliot (Prufrock poems) and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I’ve been kicking around the question, reading up on the writers in question and am now full to bursting with many ideas on how to tackle them both.

In a way, it ties into the separate work I’ve been doing on reviews for NHI Review. I’ve been reviewing for this site for almost two years now. At the start I found it difficult to know how to approach the pamphlets and books that I received. But lately the sort of work I’ve been sent to review really reflects a sort of growth I’ve been going through. Last year Messalina kindly directed me towards the PFFA site where I learned a great deal about how to read and criticise poetry. Initially like all other newbie posters there, I wanted to post poems and see what other people thought. But I learned very quickly that there are far more gains to be made by reading other peoples’ poetry, carefully and painstakingly, and seeing how they put it together and how it can be taken apart – in short how it stacks up.

Feeding this useful information back into my own work and study, I have moved closer towards seeing how reviews and critiques should be written, and now worry much less about my own poetry these days. Funny really, because and old friend of mine once told me that the real lessons in poetry are learned from critical pieces, and the writing of them, less so than the actual poetry itself, betimes.

Anyway, the real excitement this week, has been receiving some top-class work for review and sitting down and analysing what I think is going on, how it is put together and formulating responses that are relatively coherent whilst giving truer impressions and opinions. Up to now I’ve always been quite reticent about giving opinions – tending towards hedging my bets. This is because I have believed, rightly or wrongly, that giving a ‘bad’ review of something can be detrimental to one’s own career! A bad review can haunt you for a long time. Or so I thought – there’s a lot to be said for being honest too… It’s all a confidence thang really…

Buzzed up about: other peoples writing!

Reading: Dead Stars Have no Graves, Shadows Bloom, How Things are on Thursday, Orlando and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and other poems


Kult said...

Hi Barbara
You're on FC A300 forum, right?
Nice to find another OU blogger, adding you to my links.

This 4K essay is starting to worry me. Now that we actually have the space to really analyse, I'm not sure if I'm upto it.


Cailleach said...

Oh Kult, I know exactly what you mean about the essay - I will be glad when it's all over. I've changed my mind about 500 times and rewritten so many notes I feel like I've deforested a whole...tree!

We will get there - we will!

Thanks for dropping by!