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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: May 19, 2000
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On Creativity and Structural Violence

On May 19, 2000, the following appeared on my poetry listserv:

"I am wondering if any of you have seen a piece of writing-- essay, quote from a larger work, anything -- that deals with the issue of tragedy not being an excuse for bad art.  I run across it all the time, where someone has written a bad, bad poem, but since it's about the death of his little sister, it's taboo to criticize it."

On May 19, 2000, I responded to that listserv:

"I don't see why it's taboo to criticize the poem. I should think it would be taboo to denigrate the tragedy, but the criticism could come in the positive form of talking about the feelings, and the artistic expression given to those feelings. My students often write poetry that can be improved by their own discourse together. Many of them are delighted to discover better techniques to express themselves."

See the structural violence in the unstated assumption that criticism is negative. This belies all our concepts of collaborative work, team play, and collegiality. Artists share with other artists, scholars with other scholars, and the team coordinates its efforts to produce most great works. You may think of theory as coming from a single scholar, but read the acknowledgments. You will see that most authors have an entire circle of colleagues who "criticize" their manuscripts as they write.

John Donne: "No man is an island."