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Welcome all. It is with regret that I must announce this will be my last session with d’Verse Poets’ Pub; sadly stressful offline life is forcing me to cut down my commitments. I’ll still be around and writing poetry though, so this is not goodbye from me so much as from Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft. Next week sees Gay Cannon’s excellent FormForAll in its usual place. And Replacing my biweekly slot? I’ll leave that announcement up to Brian and Claudia. You can be sure it’ll be something equally edifying and enjoyable.

My tack this week is a little different: below I take a closer look at a poem by Frankie Guerrero-O’Neil she has kindly allowed me to critique publicly. I want to expressly emphasise ways into offering a little critique in this, the final session, so that we can really begin to step out into helpfully honest/critical commentary, daunting as it may seem initially. I will not have a team of critiquers with me, and I become a participant in the same way you do, offering shorter constructive comments. I chose this poem because it is the type quite likely to be seen amongst our blogosphere community: free verse (but with some aural devices, for example rhyme/alliteration), and in quatrains (four-line stanzas), which are by far the most common, even in free verse.

I Will – Frankie Guerrero-O’Neil

Within a lucid dream
I appear
peering through
diaphanous fabric

perpetual softness
whispy waves of energy
permeate, resonate
in and all around

There in a bold hold
of my breath and
no fear of death
you stand.

Inside the house of said divinity
nestled in the dusty ground
in the indian summer
we said ‘I will’

There is a soft, supple mood created in your poem above, Frankie. I don’t think it needs too much tweaking. If it were mine, I’d drop the first two lines. The piece feels very dream-like anyway, so in my opinion, it overcooks it somewhat. I‘d change ‘in’ to ‘of’ in S4L3 (stanza four, line three). A couple of punctuation adjustments/additions here and there are needed also. ‘No fear of death’ (S3L4) – I’m not sure of its relevance, and it seems a little overstated.

Do you need ‘in and all around’ (S2L4)? ‘permeate, resonate’ already infer this (and in a more poetic and succinct manner). Is there another way that doesn’t directly mention ‘death’ and the fear of it?

I’d be inclined to drop ‘said’ from ‘said divinity’; what do you mean by that? Where has it been mentioned previously that would qualify the word ‘said’? It seems to come from nowhere, though nicely phrased.

Lots I like about this poem Frankie; opening and closure in particular are excellent. ‘diaphanous’ is one of my favourite words. ‘indian summer’ reference is a nice touch, rather than coming off as cliché. (Do you need caps there? i.e. ‘Indian Summer’?). It’s a fine piece.

Added ’embrace and infuse’ as a suggestion to flesh out the quatrain (four-line stanza) and fill the gap cutting ‘in and all around’ leaves (S2L4). Rephrased ‘fear of death’ stanza somewhat (S3). All merely suggestions of course, to be taken or left as you feel appropriate. Some added punctuation, as mentioned further up. (Minor point – ‘whispy’ spelled ‘wispy’ (S2L2)).

Peering through
diaphanous fabric,

perpetual softness;
wispy waves of energy
permeate, resonate,
embrace and infuse.

Holding breath,
fear dissipates;
by my side
you stand.

Inside the house of divinity,
nestled in the dusty ground
in the Indian Summer
we said, ‘I will’.


I now invite you all to link a poem using Mr Linky below, freshly-written, or perhaps an old one you feel needs some work, and to try your hand at not only receiving critique, but in giving it too. Even just a line – expressed however you feel, or can – pointing to an aspect/point of phrasing you feel could be improved on. Maybe there’s an overall point you’d like to make.

I ask this week that those linking up take the plunge and offer some constructive/more analytical feedback on at least two pieces: the one in front, and the one behind. Remember that poets will come expecting and wanting critique; it’s unlikely you will hurt any feelings. If crit feels beyond your reach at this point, today’s session is not for you. As mentioned earlier, I will not have a team of critiquers giving lengthy feedback on every piece. Today we all learn from, and help, one another in a creative, collaborative environment.

Here again are my basic tips and protocol to bear in mind when offering constructive criticism; the example I gave above should help too. Feel free to use my approach/phrasing, etc. as template if you want to.

  • Use tact, always.
  • Double-check with yourself that you really aren’t ‘precious’ about the poem you have brought along to be scrutinized. Know that all critique is meant in the best interests of the poem, and never directed at the poet personally. 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).
  • Be as objective as possible in terms of the poem/poet at hand, 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. Perhaps put why you thought it didn’t work, or why it did; this is even more helpful.
  • The ‘Sandwich Technique’ – I find this very useful. 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.
Let’s go! Enjoy stepping out onto a branch. It will support you.