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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 21 Jan 2005 :  04:19:31  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Splintered is one thing but spotty is another. Cyril Wong's 'The Difficulty' pulled me in with its first line. By the end of the first stanza I was prepared for another solid poem on more or less the same thing as always. By the end of the second stanza I realised with surprise that it was a sestina; by the end of the third I suspected that Cyril Wong would not, sadly, go down in history as the first poet to think of seven interesting uses for the word 'tears'; and by the end of it all I was proven correct. I can't properly say it's time wasted--an interesting effect of the form was that it left me feeling as though I'd read an entire new collection of solid poems on more or less the same thing as always rather than just one such poem.

More surprising than the inclusion of one poem of uneven quality is the inclusion of two poems of wildly differing qualities. I would think this easier to pick out and less of a dilemma to deal with. I'm talking about how Michael Fessler's unusually successful poem about language doesn't belong in the same issue or even magazine as Gan See Siong's (somewhat) similarly themed, formulaic waste of headspace. Title X + epigraph Y on the theme of X + poem on X building toward the pronouncement that the opposite of Y is true = yet another poem as exciting as a chain email. Joy.

Even worse is the essay by Farah Aida, which seems to follow every rule of Junior College GP essay-writing, from the title ('Things do not change; we change') all the way down to the word count. If I were a marker I'd be having multiple orgasms right now, but sadly I'm only a reader, and so at the end of this masturbation session--812 words and about thirty stock phrases later--I'm only left feeling sleepy and in need of a bath. I can't decide if I ought to be disappointed or glad that there aren't any other essays in this issue.

The criticism is better. Toh Hsien Min's reviewing is engaging as usual, making two apparent failures sound interesting enough to be worth a shot, if not the tab for the shot; I only wish he'd reviewed idea to ideal instead of Leonard Ng, who jackhammers home the point that the book should have been something other than it is without giving the reader any real sense of what, in fact, it is. Yes, it is interesting but not compelling, useful but not important. I could have gathered that from a simple '5/10--Quite Okay Really'. Now tell me something about the book.

Two bright spots: the fiction, both examples of which are written in styles that could so easily be twee but instead are charming, and the Extra Media section, the thoroughness and precision of which would be remarkable if all three reviews weren't by the same person.

Not a bad issue, but lacking (as I suspect Farah Aida might put it) synergy--it could have been so much more.

Edited by - Nicholas Liu on 21 Jan 2005 04:23:09

Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 22 Jan 2005 :  13:06:32  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Hi Nicholas,

Thanks for the review of the review, as it were. It's usually quite good to hear what people think of the issues we release, but it's so much more valuable when opinion extends into critique, because it partly helps us to see where we can improve and partly helps us to analyse afresh what bases we use in putting together the journal. In that spirit, I'd just like to add a few notes to your observations.

Most of what I have to say concerns what you think is "easier to pick out and less of a dilemma to deal with". I agree with you that it's easy to see how one poem can be very much better or worse than another, and on an entirely different kind of project (say, an anthology) I might not have any dilemma to deal with. Two points are worth fleshing out:

a. Although when we first started I was loosely adhering to the idea that I would publish just as many or as few poems as I thought were good enough, au fur et mesure I found that it was not undesirable to keep the number of poems to a reasonably small range, viz. 8-12. QLRS does get some very wide variance in the quantity and quality of writing - and in particular poetry - that we receive however, and once I'd decided not to be in the situation of publishing twenty poems in one issue and five in the next, there were really only a few options. One was to keep a holding list to smooth over the variation, as some journals in the UK and US do, but I'm not fond of this system. From the contributors' point of view, it's not the most pleasant experience to be notified of an acceptance and then have to wait months or years before the poem is published (worse: the poem's existence might even be forgotten!). From an editor's point of view, I like to keep things simple for myself, and to forget all the apparatus surrounding an issue as soon as it is posted. Another option was to actively solicit for poems from poets whose work I know, but for poetry I've used this very sparingly (maybe on 3-5 occasions in the whole history of the journal, almost all of them in the first three issues) because I feel it changes the dynamics of the selection process. So the option that I did choose and still use is a first-past-the-post system: there are a few instant "yes" calls, and then there's the reading, re-reading and more re-reading through the shortlist to choose poems for the remaining space. The yardstick is still quality, but the quality level isn't so much an absolute as a level that does rise and fall with the tides. For example, for Oct 2004 I had too many good poems to choose from, and one or two of those not chosen then may have indeed made it easily into Jan 2005.

b. One of the raisons d'tre for QLRS is developmental, but I think the development of writers is not unlike the development of entrepreneurs, in that neither writers nor entrepreneurs should be mollycoddled. There is no substitute in a writer's or entrepreneur's growth to roughing it out in their particular markets. One elegant advantage of the floating quality level outlined above is that we can achieve developmental aims at the same time as privileging quality. In other words, I can read poems without regard to who the writer is and without building in any deliberate affirmative action for any particular group of contributors (young/developing/Singaporean), and still give encouragement to these writers by selecting their work when the work merits it. Gan See Siong's poem may not be as accomplished as Michael Fessler's, but it has made this issue's cut-off, and this can be seen as just reward for all the hard work he's put into his craft (I know: he's sent a few poems for each of the last half-a-dozen issues). Having said all that, I'm open to new ideas for holding together the slightly contradictory goals and parameters for the journal.

My other notes are more incidental in nature:

* Cyril's poem I found interesting also because it was a rare foray into formal verse for him. Moreover, his subject is exactly right for the form.

* Thanks for the compliment on my reviewing (interestingly enough, someone else has asked to borrow the Filipino anthology). Would you consider telling us some things about books? Or, for that matter, writing on other art forms so that Richard has some company in Extra Media? (Open call to all...)

Cheers,
HM
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  03:09:04  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
One [option] was to keep a holding list to smooth over the variation, as some journals in the UK and US do, but I'm not fond of this system. From the contributors' point of view, it's not the most pleasant experience to be notified of an acceptance and then have to wait months or years before the poem is published (worse: the poem's existence might even be forgotten!).


Yes, but the contributor does have the option of withdrawing the poem at that point if he or she doesn't want to wait. My gut feeling is that many would rather have you bung their poem on the stockpile than have you reject it, particularly since QLRS is the only really credible lit publication Singapore has at the mo.

quote:
One elegant advantage of the floating quality level outlined above is that we can achieve developmental aims at the same time as privileging quality. In other words, I can read poems without regard to who the writer is and without building in any deliberate affirmative action for any particular group of contributors (young/developing/Singaporean), and still give encouragement to these writers by selecting their work when the work merits it.


Your meaning is unclear to me. From what you've said, it would seem that this encouragement is purely incidental. How is it an advantage of your approach in particular as opposed to using a fixed yardstick?

quote:
Gan See Siong's poem may not be as accomplished as Michael Fessler's, but it has made this issue's cut-off, and this can be seen as just reward for all the hard work he's put into his craft (I know: he's sent a few poems for each of the last half-a-dozen issues).


I know this isn't your intention, but you make it sound like a bit of a consolation prize. Did his poem excite you? Did it feel like something you needed to include in the issue because it deserved to be read? Or was it just competent enough to fill an empty slot in your ToC without raising too many eyebrows?

quote:
Having said all that, I'm open to new ideas for holding together the slightly contradictory goals and parameters for the journal.


Perhaps you might consider dropping the developmental goal altogether. I think QLRS would be more valuable as a beacon of quality, full-stop: leave t2r and PB to the platform-for-new-voices schtick. Not to say that isn't a valuable role as well.

quote:
Cyril's poem I found interesting also because it was a rare foray into formal verse for him. Moreover, his subject is exactly right for the form.


Beg pardon, but sestinas with appropriate subjects are hideously common. Most of them still fail as poems.

*

Point on reviewing: how do you work it? Do you just accept reviews on an ad hoc basis, or do you also have some method of assigning books etc. among a regular stable of reviewers? Given the small number of literary books released locally, it'd be a good thing vis a vis the developmental goal if you could ensure each gets a suitable reviewer. For idea to ideal, Leonard Ng is clearly (to me) not that reviewer--and particularly after reading your comments on quality control with regard to the poetry, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps his review of the book made it in because no one else happened to submit one.
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Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  13:33:39  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
On stockpiling: even assuming that contributors are happy to wait, and even presupposing that I have the time to run any system more complicated than the current one, it wouldn't necessarily result in an effective change in the system, because for me to accept a poem for the next issue rather than the current one requires dead-set certainty that the 13th poem (say) is definitely going to be better than the 12th poem of the next issue, and it's simply not possible to make that judgement call. Even if it were possible, the option of including a 13th or 14th poem in the current issue remains. If on the other hand you're suggesting (it's not clear from your post, but I'll ramble on anyway) a pre-decision stockpile, i.e. we sit on a poem and reply only six months in the future when it somehow moves from being probable to painfully obvious that this poem is never going to see publication, I would oppose that on principle: I don't think journals should hold on to poems that they are not already intending to use. The etiquette between contributors and journals should be that the contributor offers the piece in question exclusively to one journal for a reasonable time period for the journal to make its decision. If journals are going to take two years to respond (and I am sorely tempted to name and shame some of these...), the contributor has less incentive not to do simultaneous subs, etc., and of course the impact of variations to the submission conventions are not limited to the parties directly involved but flow out into the wider ecology of the literary marketplace. I don't mean to suggest that submission etiquette is somehow fixed, uniform or even widely understood, but I do feel that the literary marketplace would be better served if all participants had due consideration for one another.

On the floating yardstick: yes, the encouragement is to some degree incidental, but it does exist; that's the advantage. A Singapore analogy: if the government were to set certificates of entitlement for vehicle ownership at a fixed (say) $30,000, there may be households that will never be able to afford a car. However, under the auction system, some months the COE might go down to $15,000, and some of the abovementioned households will then get a chance to own a car; conversely, the COE might also go up to $45,000, thus pushing up the revenues that the government receives from the COE system.

On Gan See Siong's poem: I thought it was good enough to be included in this issue.

On Criticism: typically there are two ways critical reviews get on the site. If someone out there feels enough about a new(ish) book that he/she has read, he/she might just write a review and send it in. Example in this issue: Ron Klein's review of Cloud Atlas (which, if you'll allow me to add my personal plug, is an extraordinarily brilliant book that places David Mitchell as the present and the future of the British novel). Alternatively, if a publisher sends us a review copy, assuming it's suitable/relevant, we will do our utmost to place it out to a reviewer; in return for his/her effort, the reviewer gets to keep the book. Example in this issue: Leonard Ng. We do consider how certain books are more suited to certain reviewers, but the pool of reviewing talent in Singapore is dreadfully small, many of the better ones also happen to be published writers and therefore are cautious about the books that they agree to review, and our busybusy lifestyles often restrict availability as well. Elaine and Yueh Chin have done a fabulous job of tapping new reviewers for the journal (a much better one than I could have done, and in any case I'm content to just write the reviews and send these in to them for their consideration), but evidently the Singapore literary scene still lacks critical mass :) .

I'm inferring from your post that you're happy to be considered for future review assignments.

Cheers,
HM
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  14:10:20  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Just chipping in my Rp250 worth:


I'd like to distinguish two yardsticks that any respectable selection process would by necessity adopt.

a. the "Hygiene" factor : your basic pre-qualification criteria; in the case of a journal, this would be whether any given piece is publishable, not plagarised, the original work of its stated author, the work fits the theme of the competition/journal etc. etc.

b. the "edge" : in a competitive situation, the particular factors that give one candidate a qualitative advantage over another. In a journal or competition, this is pretty much a function of the editorial/appraising team.

>> RE: QLRS's floating pile vs stockpile approach

From a pragmatic, not-for-a-living-but-as-a-labour-of-love administrative POV, the first-past-the-post-per-issue system works; the editors don't have to keep track of all submissions accepted/rejected/held over etc.

But as HM suggests, this happens: "For example, for Oct 2004 I had too many good poems to choose from, and one or two of those not chosen then may have indeed made it easily into Jan 2005."

Given the usual paucity of quality works going round, I wince instinctively at the extravagance of chucking good poems just coz there were too many in one particular issue. And of course the attendant risk that inferior poems might make it thru in Issue Y when better poems didn't in Issue X. To an extent, that's taken care off by hygiene filtering (see (a) above) -- and I think the QLRS editors would rather not have a poetry section for a given issue than to publish unpublishable stuff (god forbid that it ever happens)

Incidentally, 1st past the post is also how creative writing competitions (including the SLP, Golden Pt) work; the 1995 vs 1997 SLP being a prime example.

That said, one way to get round this is to allow writers to re-submit the work in the next issue -- which would be the case, say in a first-past-the-post electoral system with unelected candidates with genuine potential. Of course you then have to plow through the junk all over again. I won't go into the prospect of an NMP (Nominated Maybe Poem?) system.

Another possibility: use the CMS system to log all "qualifying" entries but only publish those which this particular issue has space for, rolling over the other worthies for consideration in subsequent issues --- in which case the CMS itself serves as a tracking mechanism for the "maybe" list.

===
The Quality Question:

>>>>"I think QLRS would be more valuable as a beacon of quality, full-stop: leave t2r and PB to the platform-for-new-voices schtick."

This sounds as if some secret cabal sits and decides what goes where in the literary scene; instead, the various online efforts

1. have rather different aesthetic and editorial policies
2. have overlapping readerships and certainly contributor pools
3. compete directly or indirectly for the best work they can get their hands on (or which comes to them).

PBB, btw is not a platform for anything other than an occasional showcase for poetry that comes to the editor. I see no reason why PBB or t2r or anyone for that matter should content themselves with the "platform-for-new-voices schtick" if they can get their hands on the best work from anywhere. And that's how market forces should work.

If QLRS or anyone else attracts quality works it's coz it has earned the credibility to do so.

That said, PBB is tuned differently, since (1) we don't get that many submissions and (2) don't have an issue based system but publish new work year round. So no pressure to publish until the material warrants it.

Would PBB want to mop up the rejects from QLRS if a system were in place? I'd say there's no reason anyone should care to live off the second-hand crumbs if we can get the grade AA material 1st-hand.

===

On Developmental strategy:

I think Nic has misconstrued the shape of QLRS's developmental role. From what I see it's not a case of "you're Singaporean / young / unpublished so I will give you a break". All the pieces would presumably have the hygiene factor minimum.

Instead it's more of a blind-tasting (this reads great on the palate, with flinty aftertones and a long finish -- who IS this poet?).

The legup that writers-in-development get from QLRS is precisely the chance to have their writing assessed by the same yardstick as all other work available, for that given issue.

Extending the electoral metaphor; you're among the best available qualifying candidates this time round.

As for absolute quality -- what's that?











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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  21:27:44  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Hsien Min:
quote:
On stockpiling: even assuming that contributors are happy to wait, and even presupposing that I have the time to run any system more complicated than the current one, it wouldn't necessarily result in an effective change in the system, because for me to accept a poem for the next issue rather than the current one requires dead-set certainty that the 13th poem (say) is definitely going to be better than the 12th poem of the next issue, and it's simply not possible to make that judgement call. Even if it were possible, the option of including a 13th or 14th poem in the current issue remains.


I don't think this is so insurmountable a problem (and let me reiterate that would-be contributors can always pull their poems if they don't wish to wait), but it'd be plainly absurd to try to argue with you over what is or isn't too troublesome *for you*, so fair enough.

quote:
If on the other hand you're suggesting (it's not clear from your post, but I'll ramble on anyway) a pre-decision stockpile, i.e. we sit on a poem and reply only six months in the future when it somehow moves from being probable to painfully obvious that this poem is never going to see publication, I would oppose that on principle: I don't think journals should hold on to poems that they are not already intending to use.


I agree.

quote:
On the floating yardstick: yes, the encouragement is to some degree incidental, but it does exist; that's the advantage. A Singapore analogy: if the government were to set certificates of entitlement for vehicle ownership at a fixed (say) $30,000, there may be households that will never be able to afford a car. However, under the auction system, some months the COE might go down to $15,000, and some of the abovementioned households will then get a chance to own a car. . . .


That's clearer. Point taken (but more on that later).

quote:
If someone out there feels enough about a new(ish) book that he/she has read, he/she might just write a review and send it in. Example in this issue: Ron Klein's review of Cloud Atlas (which, if you'll allow me to add my personal plug, is an extraordinarily brilliant book that places David Mitchell as the present and the future of the British novel). Alternatively, if a publisher sends us a review copy, assuming it's suitable/relevant, we will do our utmost to place it out to a reviewer. . . .


Sensible enough, but what happens after that? Will you (or the relevant editors) ever ask for substantial revisions to a piece? Perhaps reassign it to someone more suited to the task? I don't mean to pick on Leonard Ng, but his review of idea to ideal is a case in point. If I thought he was simply inept I would say so; I don't, because he seemed incisive enough in his earlier review of Maiden. I think he has, through some oversight, entirely failed to engage the meat of this book. If due to carelessness, he should've been asked to flesh out his review further; if due to lack of interest in the book as it is as opposed to what it could be, the book should have been assigned to someone else.

quote:
I'm inferring from your post that you're happy to be considered for future review assignments.


Certainly, if it's possible to reassign a book to someone else if I don't feel qualified to comment on it.

Alvin:
quote:
Given the usual paucity of quality works going round, I wince instinctively at the extravagance of chucking good poems just coz there were too many in one particular issue.


That's my feeling exactly. If it were a given that such poems would find their way into other publications that aren't experiencing such bounty, that would be well and good, but it isn't so. Some are given up on and shelved. I think rolling them over to the next issue instead would be in line with a goal of encouraging newer writers.

quote:
That said, one way to get round this is to allow writers to re-submit the work in the next issue -- which would be the case, say in a first-past-the-post electoral system with unelected candidates with genuine potential. Of course you then have to plow through the junk all over again.


Perhaps a compromise would be to include a little note in these writers' rejection letters to the effect that there was an unusually large number of good pieces submitted for that particular issue, and they might wish to resubmit their piece for consideration in the next.

quote:
>>>>"I think QLRS would be more valuable as a beacon of quality, full-stop: leave t2r and PB to the platform-for-new-voices schtick."

This sounds as if some secret cabal sits and decides what goes where in the literary scene; instead, the various online efforts

1. have rather different aesthetic and editorial policies
2. have overlapping readerships and certainly contributor pools
3. compete directly or indirectly for the best work they can get their hands on (or which comes to them).


Except that the goals of all such magazines are to an extent altruistic. 'Developing new writers' certainly is--it's there as an objective not (correct me if I'm wrong here) because it offers QLRS some kind of advantage over the others, but because developing new writers is considered A Good Thing To Do. It's reasonable, then, to suggest that using more stringent standards--making up for the shortfall by using a stockpile, soliciting more aggressively, etc., or just publishing less--might be A Better Thing To Do given that other magazines are already providing new writers a venue. No conspiracy theories here.

quote:
PBB, btw is not a platform for anything other than an occasional showcase for poetry that comes to the editor.


. . . which is usually work by new writers. And there's nothing wrong with that.

quote:
I see no reason why PBB or t2r or anyone for that matter should content themselves with the "platform-for-new-voices schtick" if they can get their hands on the best work from anywhere.


Nevertheless, that is the role they are currently playing.

quote:
The legup that writers-in-development get from QLRS is precisely the chance to have their writing assessed by the same yardstick as all other work available, for that given issue.


The very same leg-up pretty much every venue claims to provide. (Don't misunderstand me; I think that's exactly the way it should be. It's only that what Hsien Min said earlier gave me the impression that it was more than that.)

quote:
As for absolute quality -- what's that?


As for absolute quality--who mentioned that?

Edited by - Nicholas Liu on 23 Jan 2005 21:30:53
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  22:39:48  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
>>>As for absolute quality--who mentioned that?

-- "How is it an advantage of your approach in particular as opposed to using a fixed yardstick ?"

-- "I think QLRS would be more valuable as a beacon of quality, full-stop "


>>> ". . . which is usually work by new writers. "

- actually, I disagree. The proportion of new to "established" (ie. published) writers in the pbb authors list is more or less the same as that in QLRS (albeit not as stellar a cast as the contributors to PBB versions 1 and 2). Of course, it's a shorter absolute list also...

- you might be surprised that QLRS rejects don't tend to get submitted to PBB either, at least, not as far as I can ascertain.

Nor do I currently have a conscious policy of being kinder than usual to the young 'uns just to beef up the numbers -- it would work tho.





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Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2005 :  22:48:53  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Will you (or the relevant editors) ever ask for substantial revisions to a piece? Perhaps reassign it to someone more suited to the task?


The criticism editors have asked for revisions to pieces before (e.g. to provide more length, more detail, more insight). In this case Yueh Chin must not have thought it necessary to get Leonard to make a significant rewrite.

We've also reassigned at least twice before, upon the original reviewer being unable to complete the review to a satisfactory standard. Obviously we try not to have to do this, because it's troublesome, and Elaine and Yueh Chin are both pretty good in coaxing the best out of their reviewers when they really have to.

I'll let them know you're open to reviewing books.

quote:
Perhaps a compromise would be to include a little note in these writers' rejection letters to the effect that there was an unusually large number of good pieces submitted for that particular issue, and they might wish to resubmit their piece for consideration in the next.


On occasion I have fed back to contributors that we could re-consider a poem for a future issue, but this has been exclusively for poems that I've thought had the potential to be so much better if a few identifiable problems could be ironed out. I'm not keen to say, try again next ish because there's a chance we might not have as good poems next ish and we might thus be able to squeeze you in. Neither possible outcome of this deferral is positive, when you think about it.

Besides, I don't think the current FPTP system gives up any really good poems (at least, according to me). Only the "maybe" poems run over the cracks. But the selection process is worth this degree of thought.

Cheers,
HM
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2005 :  01:01:59  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Alvin:
quote:
-- "How is it an advantage of your approach in particular as opposed to using a fixed yardstick ?"

-- "I think QLRS would be more valuable as a beacon of quality, full-stop "


Fixed != absolute in the sense you seem to be using it. I can have a fixed preference for tea over coffee, but that doesn't mean I believe some sort of absolute quality standard exists by which we may compare the two. Hsien Min effectively said that he would relax his personal standards when the pickings are slim; my references to a 'fixed yardstick' etc. should be read in this context.

quote:
- actually, I disagree. The proportion of new to "established" (ie. published) writers in the pbb authors list is more or less the same as that in QLRS (albeit not as stellar a cast as the contributors to PBB versions 1 and 2). Of course, it's a shorter absolute list also...


All right, my bad. That was the impression I had of PBB; I admit I didn't go through it and work out the breakdown.

quote:
you might be surprised that QLRS rejects don't tend to get submitted to PBB either, at least, not as far as I can ascertain.


I have to wonder how you can ascertain this.

quote:
Nor do I currently have a conscious policy of being kinder than usual to the young 'uns just to beef up the numbers -- it would work tho.


Never claimed you did, and certainly QLRS has had a fair number of young 'uns--Choo Shu Jian, Grace Chua, Judith Huang, at a glance through the contributor notes. It's just that my--perhaps incorrect--impression was that rougher work has an easier time finding its way into PBB than QLRS.

Hsien Min:
quote:
The criticism editors have asked for revisions to pieces before (e.g. to provide more length, more detail, more insight). In this case Yueh Chin must not have thought it necessary to get Leonard to make a significant rewrite.


I find that puzzling.

On another note, I'm a bit surprised that you don't defend the review yourself. Since you published it (though you might not have personally selected it), surely you think it's worthy.

quote:
We've also reassigned at least twice before, upon the original reviewer being unable to complete the review to a satisfactory standard.


Kudos to you on that, then.

quote:
On occasion I have fed back to contributors that we could re-consider a poem for a future issue, but this has been exclusively for poems that I've thought had the potential to be so much better if a few identifiable problems could be ironed out.


'Revise and try us again' is common practice, but not quite what I was talking about.

quote:
I'm not keen to say, try again next ish because there's a chance we might not have as good poems next ish and we might thus be able to squeeze you in. Neither possible outcome of this deferral is positive, when you think about it.


I can see how this might be sensitive. Still, especially when it comes to beginning writers, I imagine most would prefer being told to try their luck with a poem again when there isn't such an overflow of good stuff to outright rejection. I know I would.

quote:
Besides, I don't think the current FPTP system gives up any really good poems (at least, according to me). Only the "maybe" poems run over the cracks.


I personally wouldn't want to publish a poem the loss of which, if there'd been more poems of quality, wouldn't trouble me.

*

Hope I'm not being too troublesome here. I promise I'm not trolling.
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Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2005 :  10:01:45  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
I don't think you're trolling.

quote:
Hsien Min effectively said that he would relax his personal standards when the pickings are slim


Alas, this isn't quite what I'd said. Yes there is a floating quality level for each issue, but there is also a floor quality level. Continuing with the COE analogy, it's like refusing to accept bids under $15,000; or, as Alvin puts it, having a "hygiene" factor. Where this discussion increasingly seems to be situated is that you feel the floor quality level is set too low (low enough, certainly, for me to think it was more something to do with the floating level).

As for Leonard's review, remembering the context that in QLRS I don't generally interfere with the respective editors' decisions, the inference of my thoughts about the review from its publication in QLRS doesn't hold. FWIW, while I agree the review could have been better written, I don't think it was quite as badly written as you make it out to be. And in all fairness, idea to ideal isn't the easiest book to review, given that each poet's method is true and valid for that particular poet; thus it's not an unfair strategy, and arguably more valuable, to focus on how the anthology was put together (yes, I know...).

In a way, the discussion on the review does tie back to the floor quality level also. Yes we could set this floor very high... but to what end? I'd prefer that the floor is gradually raised by writers improving themselves because they have the opportunity to (as though the COE has been bid up to $45,000) than to set the floor so high that it's not sustainable.

Cheers,
HM
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2005 :  12:07:57  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Fixed != absolute in the sense you seem to be using it. ... Hsien Min effectively said that he would relax his personal standards when the pickings are slim; my references to a 'fixed yardstick' etc. should be read in this context.


Nevertheless, you seem to imply that theres some sort of unequivocal standard by which to determine what should go into QLRS, rather than as it is in practice, a matter of negotiation, appropriateness, availability (which isnt nec the same as compromise).

Plus, XXX the poet might not admire a particular poem personally but XXX the editor might still consider it worth publishing.

Take Cyril's THE DIFFICULTY: which I have no difficulty enjoying as the sort of quirky material QLRS still manages to offer. It's not Cyril's best work, certainly not my fav, but it's him trying a different form (which is a change for him, anyway). Plenty of potential interest from Cyril readers and followers of local poetry, and even if it does end up in the big scheme of things as incidental verse (which I somehow doubt in his case), it has a publishing history thanks to QLRS. Same for his poemns on PBB, which attracted the ugliest attention possible from some quarters.

Which incidentally is my take on your impression that rougher work gets into PBB than QLRS -- not incorrect, but then again the pieces often serve different purposes other than as a textbook model for Grade AAA verse, if there were such a thing.

Perhaps one way to look at it : consider the hawker stall cleanliness ratings: A, B, C etc. They denote a particular state of affairs, but we all know fabulous food coming from some C raters.... with the reverse being sometimes true.

Id say PBB is pitched to be a B-carder, and I dont really want it to go any higher than that. Id rather focus on providing interesting fare within that range and budget.

quote:
you might be surprised that QLRS rejects don't tend to get submitted to PBB either, at least, not as far as I can ascertain.

I have to wonder how you can ascertain this.


-- for technical reasons I get to see some of the QLRS submission material

quote:
I personally wouldn't want to publish a poem the loss of which, if there'd been more poems of quality, wouldn't trouble me.


-- Surely, thats an editorial call, isnt it? Whatever happened to Metastatic anyway?



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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2005 :  20:19:08  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Hsien Min:
quote:
Alas, this isn't quite what I'd said. Yes there is a floating quality level for each issue, but there is also a floor quality level.


I was only using 'relax his personal standards' as a convenient shorthand. I didn't mean to imply there wasn't a 'floor quality level'.

quote:
Where this discussion increasingly seems to be situated is that you feel the floor quality level is set too low (low enough, certainly, for me to think it was more something to do with the floating level).


Well yes, that is essentially it. Apologies for not expressing it clearly enough earlier.

quote:
As for Leonard's review, remembering the context that in QLRS I don't generally interfere with the respective editors' decisions, the inference of my thoughts about the review from its publication in QLRS doesn't hold.


Fair enough, I suppose--though I have to ask, what then makes QLRS *QLRS* and not a loose assemblage of autonomous, specialised sub-reviews?

quote:
FWIW, while I agree the review could have been better written, I don't think it was quite as badly written as you make it out to be.


I don't think it's badly written per se; I think it's good writing on issues all but irrelevant to the book they're ostensibly about.

quote:
And in all fairness, idea to ideal isn't the easiest book to review, given that each poet's method is true and valid for that particular poet. . . .


Not sure how that presents a difficulty--the point being not to say poet X has the right approach and poet Y is talking out of his arse, but that poet X's section of the book illuminates this aspect of writing (or at least *his* writing) and poet Y's section illuminates that aspect, and so on. What is the books vision, and how does it fulfill it? Not 'does it fulfill it'--how. All the stuff about what it could have been but wasn't should be gravy, not stuffing.

quote:
. . . thus it's not an unfair strategy, and arguably more valuable, to focus on how the anthology was put together (yes, I know...).


Valuable? Maybe for someone who has already read the book--but then you would be writing criticism and not a review, and this piece doesn't have the depth or meticulousness to stand up as criticism, either.

Alvin:
quote:
Nevertheless, you seem to imply that theres some sort of unequivocal standard by which to determine what should go into QLRS, rather than as it is in practice, a matter of negotiation, appropriateness, availability (which isnt nec the same as compromise).


An unequivocal standard is certainly possible. It's what you'd have if you only chose poems that grabbed you by the throat, throwing away all the 'maybes', and to hell with consistent issue sizes.

Which isn't at all what I'm proposing--my point is that what you're arguing is so impossible really isn't. Nor is its possibility mutually exclusive with the fact that the QLRS selection process (and that of most magazines) is 'in practice, a matter of negotiation, appropriateness [and] availability'.

quote:
Plus, XXX the poet might not admire a particular poem personally but XXX the editor might still consider it worth publishing.


No one is disputing that. You seem to think my stand is that the quality of a poem is something that can be measured with calipers and plotted against others on a graph for comparison; this is a straw man so wormy and ridiculous that even a featherweight like Dead Poets' Society felt safe kicking it to bits. What I do think is that notwithstanding personal taste, it is meaningful to discuss standards--there is overlap and what's more, people don't have standards in a vacuum but also reasons for those standards, and those reasons can be discussed. When they're irreconcilable, it's always possible to recognise that well, I don't agree that this is the good poem you think it is, but if I had your conception of what makes a poem good, I too would think it a good poem. I doubt anyone here is such a simpleton that 'it just rubs me the right way' is all the reason they can give for liking a poem.

quote:
Take Cyril's THE DIFFICULTY: which I have no difficulty enjoying as the sort of quirky material QLRS still manages to offer. It's not Cyril's best work, certainly not my fav, but it's him trying a different form (which is a change for him, anyway). Plenty of potential interest from Cyril readers and followers of local poetry, and even if it does end up in the big scheme of things as incidental verse (which I somehow doubt in his case), it has a publishing history thanks to QLRS. Same for his poemns on PBB, which attracted the ugliest attention possible from some quarters.


Now you're talking about redeeming qualities, which are like arseholes except more so because most every poem has *a few*. 'This poem is not without interest' can be a good enough reason to publish a piece (the juvenilia of successful writers, for instance, would never reach readers otherwise), but I think the stated mission of QLRS demands more.

quote:
Which incidentally is my take on your impression that rougher work gets into PBB than QLRS -- not incorrect, but then again the pieces often serve different purposes other than as a textbook model for Grade AAA verse, if there were such a thing.

Perhaps one way to look at it : consider the hawker stall cleanliness ratings: A, B, C etc. They denote a particular state of affairs, but we all know fabulous food coming from some C raters.... with the reverse being sometimes true.

Id say PBB is pitched to be a B-carder, and I dont really want it to go any higher than that. Id rather focus on providing interesting fare within that range and budget.


I'm not attacking PBB or its aims. All I was saying is given that PBB and t2r are already for whatever reason giving space to less polished (by some standards, less accomplished) works, QLRS can afford to give less emphasis to its developmental aim.

That was based off my earlier (mis)understanding of how it worked toward this aim--now I'm not sure if it would make a difference, or if the aims are contradictory at all.

quote:
-- for technical reasons I get to see some of the QLRS submission material


Oh, I'd forgotten you were involved. My bad.

I'm not sure what would be so bad about getting QLRS's rejects, though. Like you said, different people have different opinions on what makes a good poem. . . .

quote:
-- Surely, thats an editorial call, isnt it?


It is an editorial call; that doesn't make it undiscussable.

quote:
Whatever happened to Metastatic anyway?


I think you've asked before, and like I said, it died a death. Lack of time on the part of the other two editors, stagnating submissions, and then finally the webmaster (Daniel) failed to renew the domain, and one of those megasquatters moved in.

I'm trying to get it started again, though. All the old files are up at a new domain; I'm waiting for Daniel to get the updated guidelines, design etc. up before I do anything else, though.

Edited by - Nicholas Liu on 24 Jan 2005 20:27:07
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2005 :  21:01:51  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Nic:

Don't get me wrong - I think you've touched on significant issues, but:

quote:
It's what you'd have if you only chose poems that grabbed you by the throat, throwing away all the 'maybes', and to hell with consistent issue sizes.

Which isn't at all what I'm proposing--my point is that what you're arguing is so impossible really isn't.


-- would be interested to hear how you think it could practically be worked out within the constraints of a regular issue-based publication in the current context.

quote:
Now you're talking about redeeming qualities, which are like arseholes except more so because most every poem has *a few*.


-- Not to get too anal about it, but I do indeed think Cyril's poem is of sufficient interest to have been worth reading on QLRS. As a reader, it's not my call but I'm certainly glad the editor included it.

quote:
All I was saying is given that PBB and t2r are already for whatever reason giving space to less polished (by some standards, less accomplished) works, QLRS can afford to give less emphasis to its developmental aim.

....A Better Thing To Do given that other magazines are already providing new writers a venue.



-- this still assumes a linear relationship: ie.

QLRS-publishable Submissions = TOTAL SUBMISSIONS - (Developmental Submissions mopped up by PBB & t2R)

Consider instead that QLRS might choose to "develop" a different kind of writing or for a different sort of audience than PBB / t2R. This applies in particular to t2R, which eschews the literary label for an altogether different sort of ethic.

Each publication might then have to consider how best it could distinguish its "developmental" stream from its more finished product, and deal usefully with the maybes on their own terms.

Would be good to hear any ideas you have on how best to manage the maybes and work-in-progresses and "almost-made-it"s, setting aside the assumption that different e-publications mop up for each other or share a common pool of contributors.

As a bit of an aside, the NORA project being launched this Thursday at NLB was once bandied as an online archive of unpublished work not picked up by anyone anywhere...



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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 25 Jan 2005 :  12:48:03  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Crap! I was sure I'd already written a reply to this. A long one, too.

Bloody internet.
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 25 Jan 2005 :  17:27:12  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Nicholas Liu

Crap! I was sure I'd already written a reply to this. A long one, too.

Bloody internet.



Strange thing was I remember seeing it and was about to reply to it when it disappeared...

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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 25 Jan 2005 :  21:42:33  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Bizarre! Could I have accidentally deleted it? What time did you see it?
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