When I picked the February 1914 issue of The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine out of my Time Capsule, I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.
The column “Literary Club” (which runs across several pages) reminded me of the first time I received feedback on a piece of fiction.
Naturally I knew my story would blindside the workshop leader and seven other writers around the table – it was the most brilliant story ever to be exposed to human eyes. It would change the course of literature forever.
There was a moment’s silence once the workshop leader opened the discussion, then a snigger, quickly stifled.
“It’s Disney on acid,” said the person to my right and the group dissolved into hysterical laughter. It took all of ten of the forty-five allotted minutes to dissect and toss out the story, wrap up the discussion and head out for a lunch break.
Having endured a painful education in accepting criticism in dance where it can often be phrased and felt as both intensely negative and personal (what’s ‘wrong’ is you/your body), I found the responses amusing. But I’ve never looked at that story again.
I thought what I’d do here is merge snippets from the “Literary Club” column writer’s responses to various poems to create the ultimate feedback letter, and then write a poem using lines and images given in the responses. The poem proved too much for me! I just couldn’t manage it! Can you?
Rose of York,
I like your verses.
I should rather demur to the words “sea-girt bay.” An island can be sea-girt, but I don’t quite see how this phrase can apply to a bay of the ocean.
I don’t think I would begin by speaking of “a fellow spirit with whom to converse.” You don’t exactly “converse” with a spirit. You enter into communion with a spirit.
Then this is rather a truism: “It is not the lot of every human creature to be endowed with gifts above those of the average man.” Of course not, for what then would become of the “Average”?
You must not make “on” and “song” rhyme.
I do not think that “the waves falling on the rocks” sounds well.
I confess it would have pleased me better if the Divine Vision had – as surely would have seemed natural – awakened an ultimate response within the breast of the suffering woman.
You are too fond of phrases.
Do not say “then when”
You are inclined to dwell too much on unimportant details.
You rather confuse ideas.
Tautology occurs rather often.
You skip over years in a bewildering manner.
You mix the present tense with the past rather awkwardly.
I do not know why the poem is called “The Crown of Life.”
“I’ll haughty talk of men” is not grammatical.
Your final sentence will never do – it drags on for nine lines.
I have altered the last line.
I sympathise with you, and should encourage you to beguile your lonely life by writing. It is good for you, and, of course, you may improve with practice. Do not be discouraged. You should try again.
Your friend at “The Literary Club”
Hey, at least you got feedback… I think it’s much more common to be ignored these days.
That’s true. Best be grateful for small mercies, eh? But I have to admit, it did make me realize I had a whole lot to learn…
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