Monday, August 28, 2017

The Selfish Critiquer

This comes from frenemy John Oberon's blog about a month ago.  Someone asked for a critique on her poem:


Let me first say, poetry is not my strong suit. That's why I need a little help. I've been trying to improve in this area, and I would greatly appreciate a few honest opinions of the attempt and/or suggestions on how to improve it.
Thank you in advance.
I know not why I turn to Nature’s embrace
when the man-made confines of wood and stone
become too stifling to endure longer.
It seems my soul longs to trace
the sun’s warming rays,
dancing amidst the riotous colors of spring’s fresh blooms,
and I am helpless but to obey.
At such times, I leave the dusky shadow of my home
and set out down the old gravel path
until my feet irrevocably lead into the neighboring wood.
I can measure my life in the changes
of her humble trees
passing from one phase of their life
to another by regular degrees.
Today, I entered by a path untried
by my feet in my score years.
No humble herbs sprouted here save the mosses
carpeting the forest floor with a fresh green softness
absent from the other well-worn paths.
Here the elders of the forest’s arbors
rise high above my lowly head to proudly raise
their branches in praise to their creator.
I walked there through the long, solemn halls
of a cathedral untouched by bumbling mortal hands
and gazed heavenward upon a mural
no man’s craft could hope to rival.
Leaf and sky, light and shadow,
gathered in an undulating dance
unhindered by the passage of time.
All too soon the sanctuary came into view,
and I stood transfixed in awe of its simple beauty.
A crystal brook wound merrily along its course,
the tinkling waters joining in the songbirds’ hymn.
A single dogwood tree stood alone in the clearing,
blushing blossoms sheltering the brook
from the overlooking sun’s mottled light.
My soul rejoiced, joining in the chorus,
and I remained, having no will to leave.
When I thought my heart could hold no more
wonder for the marvelous sight,
I was further blessed to see a single deer.
She passed the shadows of the trees
to dip her head to drink of the stream’s waters.
Her countenance was unlike any I’d ever seen,
a delicate, graceful form covered in fur of purest white.
The wind shifted,
showering the clearing with dogwood blossoms,
and the doe raised her hoary head to regard me.
I felt no fear from her,
only my dumbstruck awe,
regarding the lovely creature glowing in the sunlight.
In an instant the moment was gone,
and the snow-white doe vanished
into the forest once more,
leaving me with the realization
the creature I encountered was no fleshly being,
but the spirit of the woods.
And here was his response:
Well, the meaning is crisp and clear, and that's good, but it reads more like a factual account of an event than a poetic impression. It's almost like you initially wrote this in prose, then simply diced it into eight stanzas of varying lengths with very little rhyme or reason. Good description, though.

A big problem is the idea of worshiping nature...of trying to draw spiritual transcendence out of flora and fauna. Certainly nature provides us with moments of beauty, awe, and grandeur, but only because they are the handiwork of the most beautiful, awesome and grand Creator. They reflect the character of God and apart from Him, they are nothing but shadows and dust. To misplace worship on the created rather than the Creator is little more than emotional masturbation. It is hollow and in the end leads to despair, because it can never fill the God-shaped vacuum in our souls. Nature dies, but we are meant for eternity.

So if you want to improve this "poem" immeasurably, at least as far as meaning, direct the worshipful feelings and awe that nature inspires to the infinite God, because all of nature points to Him.
So after one short paragraph that could actually be construed as helpful, he spends two paragraphs lecturing her about Christianity.  It's so silly too this idea that you can't "worship" nature without Christian God.  Um, hello, Native Americans and tribes in Africa and South Africa and so forth have been doing that for thousands of years before Christ was even born!

But more to the point, this is just selfish on Oberon's part.  The author didn't ask him about religion; she wanted help with her poem.  Instead of providing much actual help, he uses it as a platform to harangue her about his religion.  It's just bad form.

The goal of a critique is to help the author, not save his or her soul.  If you want to do that, walk around your neighborhood handing out pamphlets.


  1. I enjoy poetry but it's so personal and I always hesitate to offer critics.

  2. Wow, that's the type of critter you stay away from.



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