There is a lot to work through here. I'll need to simplify.
I don't think I'll comment on work that is clearly therapeutic. I think there is tremendous value and potential for catharsis in that kind of exercise. I also think such work is above (or outside) of critical comment.
I'll respond to work that I assume is being groomed for submission, or has already been submitted. If I do comment on your work (and don't be disgusted if I don't; there's probably not a good reason for it, probably no reason for it at all), if I do, then know that I thought about it for a while. And if I come off as disjointed, or if I miss the point entirely, that's simply as good as it's going to get with me.
If you comment on my work, in most cases I will thank you. That's all. I think that works best. I've seen workshops work well that way. You can do what you want with the critiques you receive. Just know that I'm not interested in what you think about what I think about what you wrote.
I'll be as honest as possible in my evaluations, but I tend away from the brutal honesty. I'll tell you that I have already fallen, or will fall, into every single trap and make every single mistake (including spelling errors-which HORRIFY me) that I will ever find in your work.
I am not a better writer than you. So I don't know how valuable my input will be to you. In most cases, you'll benefit most from my silence. I've been published twice. Only two times. I won a literary prize for poetry from my university's arts and literary magazine for a poem you'll never read titled "Heart of Trees." And I interviewed Stephen Graham Jones www.demontheory.net
for Cemetery Dance Magazine a few years ago. I forget the year and month. I know it was the Charles Grant memorial issue; cool cover, cool mag. That said, take my critique with a shot of the Irish amber.
I don’t read much poetry. It confuses me. And poetry readings make me hate the stuff. (Why do poets read their poems in that weird sonorous tone?) But it’s the only form of writing that seems to make sense for me right now-as a writer, I mean. When I do read poetry, it’s Sexton, and Blake, and cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, Berryman, Frost, Whitman, Neruda, Pound, Li Young Lee, Rumi, Merwin, Dickey, Russell Edson, Roethke, Rilke, Yeats, Gary Snyder, Robinson Jeffers, Ray Young Bear-others.
I do take the commonest advice to writers: I readreadreadreadreadread everything I get my hands on. Right now: Thor. Yeah, Goldilocks.
I think the “Needle” poem needed about four more drafts in order to distance it from the overtones that weaken it. But it was time for it to go away. Someone else needed to look at it. FInally.
I don’t have a theory for this stuff, not anything that would help anyone. I’m too busily enmeshed within my own brand of chaos to try to help you figure out where yours comes from.
And that all ends up sounding like a load. Doesn’t it?
peace at least