The Art of Receiving Poetic Critique

You can show your poem to your mom, your spouse, your co-workers, or your friends, but you might not get the responses that you can suck up into your little writing fingers to use in an effort to refine your craft. What does it really mean when someone who cares about you, but not for poetry says, "Wow, this is great. I really like it?"

So perhaps you've realized this conundrum and you've decided to put your poem, ripe and juicy, in the feeding bin of a cyber critique forum. Watch out. If the only feedback you've ever gotten on your diligently crafted efforts has been the sweet nothings from those around you, you might be shocked, upset, or saddened at the responses that the critics pile onto your poem. You might get, "This line is clich?;" "The rhyme is a bit forced here;" "The wording in this stanza is awkward;" or the ever dreaded, "What are you trying to say?"

A normal response to a critique with one, some, or all of the above comments can have a newly critiqued poet either running for the cyber exit, or poising himself in the ready for a fist through his monitor. Don't fret. As I said, these are common first responses; furthermore, even the most experienced poet has his share of poems infected by the harsh words of a critic.

So how does one handle a critique? Well, first, one must understand that a critique isn't a critique on the poet. Being a great poet doesn't make one immune to negative critique. The poet must ingest every word a critic throws his way. There is finesse to using critique. A poet doesn't have to blindly accept a critique, but he should consider just why it is the critic offered the suggestion, and then try to delineate how the critique relates to the aim of the poem.

Say, for example, you wrote a poem with short choppy lines. Your intention was to convey an abrupt sound that resembled the theme of your poem. Say a critic told you, "Your lines are much too short and choppy." Okay, now you don't have to go off and explain to the critic that you did it on purpose and that he is obviously ignorant. You might want to give your piece a second look-over, wait for some more responses, and chew on all of that for a while. So, given the critique of "too short and choppy," you might not want to totally change your piece in an effort to satisfy a critic who didn't understand what it was you were trying to do, but you could search for a way to keep your style while hinting at your purpose.

Always consider your intentions as compared to the way someone reads your poem. If you are finding that people don't understand your intentions, you need to re-work your piece within your own design.

The very first honest critique is always the most difficult one to swallow. After that, the critiques don't go away, they just become welcomed tools for the aspiring as well as established poet.

Devrie Paradowski is a freelance writer and poet. Her poetry has been published by several literary journals and she has written dozens of articles for various publications including "Poetry Renewal Magazine," and "Poetryscams.com." She is the author of the chapbook, "Something In the Dirt," which can be found at http://www.lulu.com/content/108560 . In 2001, Devrie founded a popular online literary community ( http://www.lulu.com/content/108560 ) that has become highly respected for some of the most honest and in-depth poetic critique on the Internet. In keeping with her commitment to inspire amateur writers to hone their skills, she also founded a local writer's group called, "The Fire and Ice Writer's Group."

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