Now that the immediate issues arising from the note attached by the Free Press editors to Adam David’s “Mistakes We Knew We Were Making” and Angelo Lacuesta’s “Polarity Is Interesting But” (i.e., the politics of the editor-writer relationship, the differences between “censoring” and “editing,” the tasks that constitute the editorial process) have been discussed and pretty much clarified, I think it’s time to subject to scrutiny what triggered this commotion to begin with—David’s preferred brand of criticism, in particular, and the challenging work of critique, in general. The ongoing discussion has generated a colorful vocabulary to describe David’s critical output so far, with terms like “critical noise” or “pitbull poetics,” and adjectives such as “heated,” “cheeky,” “thought-provoking,” “gleefully insulting,” “vicious, hurtful and unnecessary.” It is beginning to articulate for us whether the criticism David offers does more harm than good, more good than harm. If anything, the discussion is making the pertinent questions evident: What makes a critique productive? What makes it “thought-provoking,” or “vicious, hurtful and unnecessary”? How do we measure the credibility of a critique? What kind of critique can make us better readers and writers? Do these critiques exist? Where can we find them? How can we produce them ourselves?
While it is tempting to say, “Case closed, back to our respective caves to write our poems and short stories and essays and kung anu-ano pang shit now,” which of course is also necessary (in the thick of writing, the best way for me to function is to temporarily shut down my critical faculties), I realize more and more the value of resisting the urge to compartmentalize, for if the breakdown of clear-cut distinctions among genres can bring forth the most mind-blowing texts, then surely, the collapse of the stubborn divide between creative work and criticism can do the same—if only to hold us consciously accountable for what we write, and in doing so, cultivate in us the drive and ambition to outdo ourselves.