Popularity versus Literary Merit

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RHFay
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Popularity versus Literary Merit

Post by RHFay »

Discussions here and elsewhere have started to make me think about the subject of popularity versus literary merit. Which is truly important in publication? Does it really matter?

Some people love my poetry. One of my works managed to come in tied for first runner up in one horror poetry contest. Other examples of my works have been in three separate on-line "best of issues" and two forthcoming print "best of" anthologies. And, of course, there's my ever growing list of publication credits. I've even been called a stellar poet by one particular editor, poet, college instructor, and MA.

And yet, some people don't really seem to think my work meets their criteria for certain poetic formats and styles. I've had theory and examples recited repeatedly to explain how my work falls short of their interpretation of the rules and standards.

So, which group is right, and which group is wrong? You may say that it depends upon each individual work, but I'm starting to believe otherwise.

As I sat here posting links to my latest poetry publication, listening to early Duran Duran, I realised something. There is a strange connection between my poetry and Duran Duran's music. The young public loved their music. The music critics hated it, and thought it was just drivel and drive. And yet, Duran Duran, in various permutations, continued to make music, continued to sell albums, even when their general popularity waned. They just released a new album this past year.

What's really important in the music business, getting critical acclaim or selling records? What's truly important in the publication business, gaining literary acclaim, or selling your works to publications and publishers?

Not that I'm advocating writing and selling complete garbage, but I think trying to reach for some lofty literary goal is often overrated.

Just some food for thought.
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!" Andrew of Armar.

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Post by The Master »

I think your associations are a little off.

When you speak of whether your work meets a given criteria for format or style you are speaking of a writing mechanic, not artistic merit. If you think of a teacher grading a essay they can give a student high marks for creativity but still mark the student down for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Those errors detract from the overall execution of the essay, but they certainly don't negate the artistic merit of the story.

In my opinion popularity with the audience reading your work (listening to your song, watching your movie, etc.) automatically conveys a degree of merit to your work. After all, if people enjoy it then you must have struck a chord with them on some level right? Be that as it may, popularity alone doesn't determine critical merit. Transformers was a very popular movie that accomplished its goal of action entertainment very well, but it certainly won't appear on anyone's list of great film achievements like 2001: A Space Odyssey does. Sometimes time makes a difference as it does with your Duran Duran example. In the 80's they were viewed by critics as the latest pop flavor of the month. In retrospect their greater contributions to music's direction is better appreciated.

As for the broader question of which is more important, critical acclaim or commercial success, I think the answer is different for each writer/artist. I honestly don't think there is a "right" answer because whatever is right for you is all that matters. I recently read a comment from a young artist who gaining popularity for her music thanks to its use in a commercial. She was getting criticized as "selling out". Her response was something to the effect of "I am trying to make my living with my music. What you call selling out I call success." I love her outlook!

Considering your question in light of other conversations you have had I know that you frequently categorize your work as Haiku, but sometimes it doesn't meet the generally expected Haiku structure standards. Its my opinion that if you find yourself frequently defending your work's structure on a technical basis then the easiest way to address it is to stop calling it Haiku and just let it stand on its own merits for what it evokes in the reader.

For me its a mixed bag. I am not trying to make a living with my creative endeavors. I primarily create something for my own enjoyment, then share some of it with others both for feedback so I can improve and simply to share it. If others enjoy it that's fantastic and I love that, but if they don't that's fine too. That's not to say that I would turn away a bucket full of cash if it were offered to me ;)

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Post by RHFay »

The Master wrote:Considering your question in light of other conversations you have had I know that you frequently categorize your work as Haiku, but sometimes it doesn't meet the generally expected Haiku structure standards. Its my opinion that if you find yourself frequently defending your work's structure on a technical basis then the easiest way to address it is to stop calling it Haiku and just let it stand on its own merits for what it evokes in the reader.
That's exactly the kind of stuff that's beginning to irk me, after hearing it for the umpteenth time. In certain opinions certain pieces might not match the supposed ideals of haiku, or whatever form is under discussion, but I stand by the belief that other opinions may disagree with that opinion. Who's ultimately right, and who's ultimately wrong? What makes one person more of an expert than another, especially when they may have similar literary backgrounds?

See why this puts my mind in a bit of a twist? :shock:

My point is - it is only personal interpretation, and others might not share that interpretation. Painting it as anything else, as some great literary law that must be obeyed at all costs, is starting to annoy me.

Let me put it another way - if it works for me.... :wink:

(I may just have gained a few confidence points today. I don't know what it really means, but it feels kinda good.)
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!" Andrew of Armar.

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Post by The Master »

Chill wind blows softly
Daffodil brightly blooming
A hint of springtime

==========================

If you are constantly finding yourself confronted about the genre of your work I think you need to ask yourself why that is. Haiku is a very specific type of poetry with a high expectation of structure and content. Usually that means a 5-7-5 syllable structure (in English) and some sort of nature and/or emotional aspect. You seem to have latched onto that "usually" and demand that people accept it as meaning "never" because it suits your work. In the end I think it makes you seem arrogant because it comes across as "you are too ignorant to understand it".

If I go to see a comedy movie and it isn't funny you might win an argument that it is still a comedy, but that's won't make me think it is a good movie. If I buy a book of Haiku and none of the poems follow any of the rules I have come to expect for Haiku I doubt that I will feel it is a very good book either. Is it really in your best interest to argue with me, the audiance you are trying to engage with your work?

When questioned, I think you will get a lot more milage by saying a work that strays from the standard form expectation is in the Haiku style but not intended to be a classic Haiku. This shows inspiration and influence while respecting your reader's interpretation and understanding of the form.

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Post by RHFay »

Well, first off, we're usually talking about speculative haiku here, which already departs from traditional haiku. I have presented links to and statements about what others have said about speculative haiku such as scifaiku and horrorku, so I won't present it again. It's getting tiring and frustrating repeating myself over, and over, and over again.

And plenty of people say this or that really isn't a haiku without really saying why. Oh, they will tout this and that, say it doesn't do this or that properly, but in the end the discussion doesn't really help. As aldan so succintly put it in the "Good Day, Bad Day" thread:
RH, you and I both know that they bring up old, dead poets and writers because they want to seem 'edjumucaded'. I believe it's called 'riding on coattails'. They just don't personally like those poems of yours, but don't have anything on which to base not giving you what you ask.
And why doesn't this really help much? Because, and I will say again, other people may take the same rules and same piece and interpret them a totally different way.

And another thing, I've read a bit about haiku on-line, and found several different interpretations of what makes true, proper haiku. Which view is correct, and which one is wrong? What makes your view the only truly correct one?

How are you supposed to take rules that are, apparently by nature, so flexible?

That, to me, is truly the crux of the matter.

Oh, and did I ever say "you are too ignorant to understand it?". Frankly, I'm sick and tired of forum types putting words in my mouth. What I said was interpretations differ.

What do I get out of all this? Well, it appears that I'm being told that I must believe what you, or Magus, or RoberII on Fifthwind, or a certain poet after he's tied one on believe, or I am automatically wrong. Sorry Charlie, the world don't work that way.

And if that loses me a customer, so be it. It's a bit sad, but that's the way it goes sometimes. There are apparently some people that wouldn't like my collection, which will contain quite a few horrorku, anyway.

I'm writing my stuff for the people that do like it, that do want to read it. I've given up trying to please everybody. Ain't gonna happen, so no sense in cryin' over it.

Maybe I will truly never understand the form. Well then, so be it. I'll go on pretending, go on getting published while certain people can debate how I fall short of the ideal.

It's just poetry, for cryin' out loud, it ain't the secrets of the cosmos. And if you take the philosophical view that it is the secrets of the cosmos, then that's a whole other thing I take issue with.
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!" Andrew of Armar.

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Post by fearthefahd »

Please pardon the intrusion.

It is a tiny bit in bad form to carry a rant from one forum to another and call out those of differing opinions by name. Not necessarily a cool thing to do. There is a thing called etiquette (even in the faceless world of the web)

To the SV site admin: Please pardon my intrusion here... I've always felt that some of the members we share have played well together. You have a wonderful forum that out-dates and outshines almost ALL like forums on the web. The respect I have for this place is unwavering. I've never intended to compete with your fine house, that's why I have never posted much here... out of respect.

Again, sorry for butting in. Delete this post if you see fit.

--FeartheFahd (aka Fifthwind)

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Post by RHFay »

fearthefahd wrote:Please pardon the intrusion.

It is a tiny bit in bad form to carry a rant from one forum to another and call out those of differing opinions by name. Not necessarily a cool thing to do. There is a thing called etiquette (even in the faceless world of the web)

To the SV site admin: Please pardon my intrusion here... I've always felt that some of the members we share have played well together. You have a wonderful forum that out-dates and outshines almost ALL like forums on the web. The respect I have for this place is unwavering. I've never intended to compete with your fine house, that's why I have never posted much here... out of respect.

Again, sorry for butting in. Delete this post if you see fit.

--FeartheFahd (aka Fifthwind)
You know what ? I really don't care anymore. Block me from Fifthwind, block me on SV, it's no skin off my nose.

Your little internet playgrounds are really only small parts of a much wider world. That's another thing I think is often forgotten when people get too full of themselves in their electronic hang-outs.

I could just as easily post this stuff on my various blogs, which might actually be read by people participating in the publication game.

I'm fed up, and I'm not going to take it anymore. And if that means leaving or getting kicked off certain forums, so be it. It will give me more time to concentrate on what's really important anyway- my family, my art, and, yes, you got it, my writing.

And, yes, it's "your house", but if you don't want things said that you don't agree with, then don't open your house to the public. Basically, don't live in a glass house.

And furthermore, it's not like most members ever use their real names, so what's the big deal?

Amazingly enough, on a forum with actual writers and actual editors, I've gotten a completely different response to the initial issue. Hmm...makes me wonder.
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!" Andrew of Armar.

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Post by fearthefahd »

Now, I'm really sorry... (to all SV members and the site admin)

Definitely forgive the intrusion.

I can remember all the way back to the old SV when it was Black and green. I've always loved this place... I read posts here almost daily.

Now, I've gone and killed a thread. My sincerest apologies. I'll withdraw... I hope the damage is minimal.

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Post by The Master »

RHFay wrote:And another thing, I've read a bit about haiku on-line, and found several different interpretations of what makes true, proper haiku. Which view is correct, and which one is wrong? What makes your view the only truly correct one?
Oh, and did I ever say "you are too ignorant to understand it?". Frankly, I'm sick and tired of forum types putting words in my mouth. What I said was interpretations differ.
It was not my intent to insult you so I apologize if offense was taken. Be that as it may, it again seems that you are focused on proving that you are right rather than being open to what others have to say.

Consider your statement as it applies to yourself: What makes your view the only truly correct one?

I still say that the best thing to do is stop demanding that others accept your work as fitting into a particular box. Create your own box and let your work be what it is on its own.

PS: fearthefahd you are always welcome to post in any thread at any time without apology. :)

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Post by fearthefahd »

Thank you Sir.

--From your friendly neighborhood "competitor" :P

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Post by Mornara »

I was disappointed to come home after a good day and find that so much crap hit the fan. I'll try to keep this short and polite, but as a devoted member of this forum, and a mod on the other forum, and the one who invited RHFay to the other forum, perhaps it is best that I say my little piece.

RH, we've had some interesting discussions, and I respect your poetry. It may not be traditional, but I believe whole-heartedly in art pushing accepted boundaries and opening people up to a new concept. And your writing, I will say, is pretty fun to read.

You seemed like a dedicated writer, and so I thought you might enjoy having another active writing community to participate in. I also felt that we would benefit as well, an author with some experience in the business was a good resource. I stand by my decision to invite you, and I am disappointed that things came to this.

However, I am floored and highly disappointed to see the response to honest, constructive criticism.
The forum, by all stated intents and purposes, is a place to learn and grow in the writing craft. We talk about voice and character and sentence structure and writers we admire. We critique our own work, HARSHLY. I've had stories that everyone who read them said "ohmygodthisisAMAZING!!!", posted it on FW, and got the constructive criticism it deserved. As a writer who wishes to not only be semi-pro, but pro and well-received, I was glad for it.

But this isn't a matter of who is good or who isn't, it's a matter of dragging things cross-forum when they should not have been. It is one thing to mention that there was a tiff on another forum, but I am disappointed to see names referenced.

To be blunt, you asked for critique. You received it. You have been around long enough to know that we are hard and harsh and realistic, and we will not pull punches on critique. Please at least have the respect to realize that we were not treating you any different than I or RoberII or Fifthwind himself is treated.

(I apologize here for getting a little harsh!)

No one is a "natural born writer". Everyone, no matter how great their talent is, needs to be humble enough to at least listen to critique. Everyone can learn from someone else. You talk about us being locked away in our little worlds, and yet you are locking the world away from yourself. There is so much to learn out there, so much wisdom and knowledge, that it saddens me to see you denying that any of it matters to you.

And whatever you may say about forums, somehow both of these forums managed to be good enough, until they disagreed with you about your opinion of yourself. Please, do not try and pin that on other members, doing so only hurts the people on both of these forums. Two forums that have brought a lot of good things to people, and will continue to do so. Honestly, as far as I'm concerned, the two best writer's forums on the net. I respect and admire both founding admins immensely, and my fellow members as well. It saddens me to see this petty sniping at something that was intended in the best of fellow-writer spirit.

It is my hope that you will take some time to think about the words of three men of skill and intelligence, who gave you some pretty good advice. I also hope that you can take it to heart, and learn from it. I apologize for my inadvertent trigger of this, and hope that it will not affect this forum, despite being dragged over here. For the mess, I deeply apologize Master.

Thanks to both Fifthwind and The Master of Speculative Vision for sites that have immeasurably strengthened my writing, and given me a lot of fun at the same time. You're good people, as a friend of mine would put it.
Ita Est

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Post by Neurolanis »

Not sure I should say anything here, but I'd like to add that I don't really understand what this is all about. Poetry is highly subjective to begin with, as I believe RHFay has said. As for specific types of poetry, such as Haiku, I don't understand the problem. If someone wishes to structure a poem in such a way that it is accepted as a haiku by the accepted barriers then ... okay ... it's a haiku. If that person strays a little and then asks, or someone politely informs them that it is not technically a haiku, well, that would be like saying that the moon isn't blue, it just appears that way some nights; it isn't a big deal, it's just a technical issue which bears no meaning on art. Whether a poem which looks like a haiku is or is not in fact a haiku means absolutely nothing to me personally ... and I just don't see why anyone (critics or poets) would be bothered by either side of that scenario.

I myself refer writing freestyle poetry. I have absolutely no concern that some of my poems may happen to technically fit one of the many standard types of poetry, or almost fit -- this risking me being accused of attempting and failing at a certain structure of poetry. I personally don't care. For me poetry is art; it stems from the soul and is meant to inspire. Pointing out spelling and grammar might always be helpful, but it is not the point of poetry (not saying anyone is here saying that it is.) I just mean that poetry is inspired and intended to inspire, and it may for one and not for another, and you may make as little or as much of that fact as you'd like.

The ancient Celts had the same word for poetry as they had for magic; as something which comes from the unconsciousness and transforms the conscious world in some way (or our perception of it.) Historians claim that they held poets in higher regard than the druids or even their own kings. So originally one can see the intense cultural, spiritual, psychological power of poetry; of words which slide out from deep inside and upon a page (or which are vocally expressed.) If poetry is art it is coming from somewhere else, and thus the words connect us to something else and has the power of transcendence about it. In other words, poetry is not intended to make us think (or judge) but simply to open our hearts and minds to something we hadn't before.

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