You are standing in a room…lights dim…a band takes the stage and starts to play, sending shivers down your spine. You listen carefully, drink in the atmosphere, close your eyes, let yourself get soaked by the mood the musicians fill the place with, feel each change in the melody and when they finish playing, you stand in awe. Then the drummer, a tall guy with a nose ring and green hair asks you for your feedback…you swallow, think, then say: “Play it again…”

This time you listen in a different way. You try to understand the piece, to decode the key they’re playing in..there is an off-beat part and now they change keys… well…but maybe…if they were using some approach notes just before entering into the chorus again..? or where they play the Cmaj7 they could go with the e flat pentatonic scale..yes, that could work and it wouldn’t change the mood nor tamper with the style & idea of the piece…or would it..? You listen even more carefully because by now you have adapted to the players voice and want to help them strengthen their own sound not bringing yours in.

When they finish playing, you grab a coke, walk over to the band, sit next to the drummer and tell him what you all humbleness. He will take notes. Maybe he likes what you tell him or maybe not…however when you leave, both of you have learned something.

I’m a musician and I love improvising – and improvising is a lot about capturing the mood of a piece first before you start to play it yourself. If you try to just play your own thing, you will mess a song up. Critiquing poetry for me is much like this. So when we give feedback, try to…

  • be sensitive
  • understand what the poet wants to say
  • drink in the mood
  • analyze the key & the style of poem and poet
  • help to strengthen the weaker parts and underline the strong parts, not more, not less
  • don’t suggest drastic changes – changing a piece from blues to rock n’roll is for experts
  • analyze very carefully before you bring your suggestions
  • be honest
  • respect the poet
  • be humble

For the last five weeks, we have focused on giving feedback and critique on OPP, other people’s poetry, for those of you that thought I was about to break into the Naughty by Nature song. (Psst Claudia, do you think they can tell that it’s not you talking any more? Smiles). The point we are trying to make is that you have to remember it is Other People’s poetry and not your own. The goal is not for all of us to sound the same. How boring would that be?

Yesterday, Joe talked about the alone-ness one can feel as a poet. I (Brian) believe that we were not meant to live life alone and by extension we are not meant to write in a vacuum as well. Quality feedback has propelled my writing to places I never would have dreamed.

Let me let you in on a little secret. Every week, Claudia and I share our OLN posts with each other prior to posting. Usually by the end of the weekend we send them to each other, to give time for them to be read and picked over as well as us to rewrite or polish as needed. I trust her because I know she is following the guidelines she shared above and we are humble enough to know we may not always follow the feedback. It is OPP after all.

All that being said, today we want to give you another opportunity to give each other a little feedback. If you put a poem into Mr. Linky, the expectation is that you will follow the above guidelines and give quality critique on two poems, the one before you and the one after you. If you can do that, you are free to enter a poem, if not, we have a wonderful Poetics prompt coming on Saturday.

Have at it Poets!