Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom by John C. Bean is a reading I had to reflect on for professional development at my job at the University Writing Center at ECU. We read the chapter "Responding to Student Writing" and I think a lot of the advice can apply to Neopoet (or any other workshop environment), if we change the nouns from "teachers" and "students" to "writers" and "readers".
The most valuable advice from the reading comes from page 320. This section emphasizes the value of mitigating “negative” comments with genuine praise. This helps make the response to writing the most constructive because writers aren’t put off by solely critical feedback. They know what they did well and what could use some more work.
The next most valuable advice comes from page 321-322 in which the authors suggest that we should use feedback to “coach revision”. By using feedback to prompt revision, readers can give writers the chance to improve even after they feel like they’re done with the poem. For the poet, it helps them learn that “writing is never done, only due or let go” but that they’ve almost always got another chance, which is very encouraging.
From a writing consultant’s standpoint, this advice is valuable as well because we are usually responding to drafts and are on a strict deadline. If we feel like we’ve got to mark every “error” and give feedback on every single thing we’d suggest to do differently in a paper, we’ll just end up bombarding most students, who are likely already stressed, with overwhelming feedback that may make them not even want to try to wade through all the suggestions.
In an online poetry workshop, poetry isn’t necessarily due, and to complicate matters, the poets may be more inclined to consider a poem done because there’s no consequence like for a student whose work is due; however, this advice still stands because it allows the reader to open up new possibilities for the poet that the poet may not have considered. From the poet’s standpoint, knowing that commenters may be working off this model allows them to avoid saying “This poem is done, you don’t have to give suggestions/I’m not listening/etc.” At the end of the day, the poem still belongs to the poet and they have the agency to decide what get’s done to the poem, if anything, but potential squabbling can be avoided if both parties are willing to engage with these types of comments.
We should all want to “stimulate meaningful revision” (322), not just point out every “error”. We should hope for meaningful comments from each other and give them as well. We should all strive to always be learning and to treat our craft like students.
I'm just your average fictional creature, living in a swampland by the sea.