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Hi Everyone!

I’m super excited that I have been asked to continue our conversations about poetry and form here at d’VersePoets. I have been asked to co-share this time slot with Luke Prater, a poet I genuinely admire and respect. There will be times when we may work together as his information regarding poetry and poetry forms is vast. I always wanted Form to be an open discussion. When I taught, I wanted participation and involvement with my students. Rarely did anyone use the comments section to ask questions at OneStop; however, I would like to encourage that here. I want to keep it fun and informal too, and respond to the needs and desires you have. If you want more information about a given topic, let me know.

Many forms have been covered at One Stop Poetry. These archives are being maintained and can be found here: http://onestoppoetry.com/poetry-forms

There are many more forms and other aspects of writing poetry that we can cover here; for your requests, write me a comment or a tweet (@beachanny). I will try to include it on the schedule. I’m looking forward to talking about this over a cuppa starting every other Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time US (8 p.m. UK).

See you next week, Gay


Welcome to Meeting the Bar: Crit Friday. This slot begins Thursday 3pm Eastern Time (8pm UK) and continues right through Friday, alternating week-for-week with Gay Cannon’s FormForAll. As she has mentioned, we may well team up and offer form and/or crit-based sessions in the future.

So what is this about? What, you’re probably thinking, can we do with constructive criticism at a venue like d’VersePoets? Here’s what I will offer –

Discussion on aspects of the craft, and ways to approach/see them in other people’s work, which ultimately means learning to see them in our own work, too. To put this into practice, we’ll all link up a poem, old or new, that you feel OK about being scrutinised by your peers, and we’ll all be looking a little more analytically than normal at one another’s pieces. Not just me and another critiquer I may have asked in to help with reaching everyone, but all of you. This week I won’t emphasise a particular aspect of the craft of poetry (overuse of adjectives, stanza-breaking, etc), but want to go over some basic etiquette, “ground rules”, if you like, that we must observe when offering constructive criticism/critique. You’ll get a better idea of what I mean by ‘constructive criticism’ when I lay these down.

Crit is almost certainly the most feared sphere of the poetry realm we inhabit; here on Crit Friday I offer a safe space for those interested in receiving and learning to give it, both of which greatly accelerate our growth as poets. In fact, without honest feedback, we can easily get stuck on our learning curve, because as the author/poet, having been so close to it, we can’t see the wood for the trees. We have little sense of perspective. A fresh pair of eyes might see something that we may not, like the unwanted repetition of a word. But constructive criticism goes way beyond this, teaching us facets of the craft we wouldn’t normally have looked at/edited accordingly to hone the piece.

Reading others a little more analytically is half the learning process. We absorb as much from this as from writing/receiving critique. Learning from their successes, being inspired by them; equally, learning from elements we felt didn’t work so well.

Why, then, is constructive crit scary, and is there so very little of it? I see two reasons: first, we don’t want to offend the poet, and – with all good intention – we write, usually very briefly, about the positives only. Second, if we leave a favourable comment on a blog, almost certainly they reciprocate.

This is all fine, but are we learning anything? Agreed, we don’t want lengthy, critical comments all over what is essentially a showcase for our best work, but there is certainly a middle-ground. How can we know, if no one tells us? How will I change my bad habit of feeling the need to add that last line in an attempt to ‘wrap it up’, when in 90% of cases it’s not only tautological (repeating content unnecessarily), but also robs the poem of the subtlety it had by overstatement? Honest feedback is the greatest gift a peer can give.

There are ways, however, of proffering it truly constructively, rather than it feeling like an attack. Here on Crit Friday I’ll offer a space to explore critique amongst others actively seeking to give/receive and learn together, and perhaps in time a little of it will spread onto the blogs in appropriate places and doses.

Today, I will briefly cover some etiquette and basic tips, then it’s time to link up your poem using Mr Linky below. I will make the rounds giving constructive crit, but what’s important here is that you shift your way of seeing, or manner of commenting, for this exercise, and give that honest opinion. We all come to Meet the Bar: Crit Friday expecting and wanting critique, and perhaps, as we begin looking at specific aspects of the craft and our critiquing broadens, you may like to post poems that you want help with/feel unfinished; this is the perfect environment.

Some basic protocol and tips for commenting more critically:

  • Use tact. Always. There is no room for abusive or needlessly harsh critique; this is likely to be counterproductive.
  • You have brought along a poem you feel OK to be scrutinized, but check with yourself that you really aren’t ‘precious’ about it. This is very important: know that all critique is meant in the best interests of the poem, and never directed at the poet personally. On the Group I founded/admin, we say we ‘leave our egos at the door’.
  • State your points as opinion, never fact. If it helps you to do this, use the term ‘in my opinion’ or even ‘in my humble opinion’ (IMO/IMHO).
  • Opinion, but objective as possible in terms of the poem/poet at hand. In other words, the critique should not be any different whether the piece is written by an old friend or total stranger, and though a poem may not appeal taste-wise, stay open to merits it may have (such as original metaphor or clever wordplay).
  • Be honest. If you see an area you feel is weak/could be improved on, call it. Similarly, pointing out the strengths of a poem is also constructive – but both with rationale. Perhaps put why you thought it didn’t work, or why it did.
  • The ‘Sandwich Technique’ – I find this very useful. It is an excellent approach as it is both ordered and feels constructive/positive to those on the receiving end. It’s simple: start with what you thought worked/what you liked, move on to aspects you felt could be improved on, and finish with an encouraging comment that extrapolates the positives to encompass the poem as a whole.

I have onboard with me this week a talented poet and critiquer in Beth Winter, who runs her own crit group ‘Room for Improvement’ on the poetry site AllPoetry. She’ll be helping me visit you all with constructive feedback.

Let’s get started. Just click on the Mr Linky button below to share your poem, and to access the others already linked.

Ain’t no thang…