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All poetry is bad.

“Poetry is like beer. All beer is good; it’s just that some beer is better than others. Poetry, on the other hand, is all bad. Some poems are just worse than others.” -- Dave Steinke: bartender, manager, co-owner of Joe Kool’s in Troy, Michigan, and philosopher


The first thing to learn about criticism is that nothing is universally approved. It doesn’t matter how good your poetry is, someone will hate it. Conversely, it doesn’t matter how bad your poetry is, someone will love it. That someone might have horrid taste in poetry or be blinded (deafened?) by their love for you, but does it matter as long as somebody likes it? (The love angle brings up a point. Someone who praises your poetry today might tell you what she really thinks when she catches you in bed with her best friend. Your greatest supporters can become your harshest critics, or vice versa.)

The critics have berated many of the greatest masters in all of the arts when their works were new. The critics loved many artists who are forgotten today as too limited in their vision and representative of their time. Take all criticism with a grain of salt. Look at it skeptically. Whether positive or negative, is it true? What can you do with this critique? Can you improve how you write poetry? Can you re-write this poem? Will this spur a totally different poem? Learn from the criticism. Use it and abuse it, getting the last drop of juice from it. Criticism is a gift that shouldn’t be returned to the store unopened just because the box is ugly or depicts something you didn’t want.

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