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How to Critique

I'm posting this as a blog to get feedback, improve it and later perhaps post it as a Forum.

Follow, where possible the 3 rules of feedback
1. Say what you like about it.
2. Say what you don't like about it and how it could be improved.
3. Find one more nice thing to say.
(I must admit I frequently leave out steps 1 and 3 because they have already been covered ad nauseum in previous comments)

I'll start simple. Read every poem aloud, at least in your head. You will hear where words stumble or jar. Then think about the poems purpose or intent and decide for yourself if it has been successful. Be cruel to be kind. Mediocrity is the death of most poetry.

Does it say?
“I love you forever” or
“I'll die now I've lost you” or
“Let's all be nice and stop war”
I guess I'm being a little facetious but so many themes have been done to death it takes truly extraordinary talent to write something new on them.

I have a few personal guidelines of what constitutes good art or poetry
Epiphany, Redemption, Ostrananie, Wit and Craft.

I. Epiphany A function that art can aspire to. It is when art evokes an encounter with the numinous. And by its nature it is impossible to define its elements in any particular work. It goes beyond Christian connotations of the word, it means any experience of the numinous. It is highly subjective, and different works can evoke entirely opposite reactions from different viewers.

2. Redemption Depicts that which needs changing, in humanity, politics or the individual. At its best empowers or shows a way to move forward, emotionally intellectually or politically. However redemption should NEVER, EVER be mistaken for inspirational work. Inspirational poems belong to Hallmark and almost always fail utterly.

3. Ostrananie Making the ordinary strange. Or perhaps perceiving the strangeness of the ordinary. An idea can be introduced in a novel way. This is often the province of Japanese poetry.

4.Wit Also cleverness, not necessarily funny. This includes referencing other works and works which rely on the viewers knowledge of art theory and history, includes Post-modernism

5.Craft Uses the medium skillfully to any of the above aims or as an end in itself.

If you find any of these qualities present in a poem them you have a basis to give it a good critique. Nothing more is required than perhaps a spell check or phrasing suggestion.

If there are none, then by making no comment YOU ARE BEING CRUEL TO THE WRITER, you need to read it carefully to find what is missing. Think hard. Critique is not easy. Try to quess or determine the poet's intent then offer suggestions that will help them find their way. This can be as simple as word choice or as comprehensive as a complete re-write with a variation of theme.

Sure not every poem can be a masterpiece, but 99% could be improved significantly by the courage and kindness of our Neopoet peers to speak the truth .

Oh, one more thing the classics! read, read, read! If your only experience of poetry is Neopoet then you don't know what the masters are truly capable of and you can't know what is better.

Does this help? I sincerely hope so.

I am always open to questions, so ask.

I might add, there are a few things to consider here when writing your own poetry.

Comments

I would also add:

do not be afraid to criticize because you think that you don't know how to do it, or because you are afraid that you will offend the poet. Speak your mind about what you like and don't like about the poem, and use your own words to do it.
When you find a poem that is truely, truely excellent in your opinion, give your opinion of THAT as well.

I think maybe this could be the basis for a workshop on criticism, perhaps one that is mandatory for all new members, after a "probationary period"; objective criticism is a thing that must be taught to many people, I think. Or perhaps not a workshop, but a mandatory forum that appears as part of the home page for all new members, for a particular period of time.

Respectfully, Jim

"Laws and Rules don't kill freedom: narrow-minded intolerance does" - Race-9togo

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Race_9togo

this will be a co-operative work.

I can't believe I had a typo in the title! I could die of shame!

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

RE title typos: I'm sure glad someone ELSE does that once in a while, I don't feel so dumb, heehee.

Respectfully, Jim

"Laws and Rules don't kill freedom: narrow-minded intolerance does" - Race-9togo

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Race_9togo

"improved" instead of how to be approved? :-)

__________________________________________________
'Break, break break on thy cold grey stones, O Sea.'

I meant improved

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

oops, I mean exchange ideas (teehee). And your name has cropped up several times as someone who is truly raising their level of valuable feedback. Good bloody on you!

I know it is hard to do. Finding anything at all to praise in a poem is often my biggest problem. (Yes, I know how arrogant that is, but I allow myself a certain latitude in that, we all have defects of nature)

One of the hardest things that should be included in this blog is that critique is a creative process. Sometimes I struggle to write something useful as much as I struggle to write a poem. It's not an easy process.

And yet I have relaxed in my attitude about the social aspects of this site. I have made some wonderful friends here, we should just be vigilant that our friendship does not detract from the honesty of our feedback.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

you comment on content, not poetry or its structure. Your heart is beautiful, your compassion endless, but until you start giving real critique I don't expect you will get much.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

There is already one blog, there will be Forums and workshops.
Some just don't want to try.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

I believe lack of comment doesn't equate to lack of being read. I read most of your work but only comment every once in a while. One thing the old site had which the new one doesn't yet was a "hit" count that automatically let one know how many times their poem had been clicked on. If I left a comment on every poem I read here I'd have time for little else. Speaking of which, a job deadline still looms so must go .........scribbler

Thats all very helpful , especially for those of us who need to learn how to analyze a poem.

lou

Stand tall, be proud to be who you are, give the world the finger!!!!

but like I said, it is a work in progress. I welcome everyone's input.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

We all learn in different ways. Some by example, some by explanation, some by banging our heads on the wall till it gets through! LOL

I just want to help any way I can and my best way is explanation. Others will help better than I can.

If I may be so bold, you just lack the confidence you deserve and also the, sorry to say it, the courage to be harsh when you need to be. Work on it. Your kindness is sometimes cruelty because it allows others to dwell in their mediocrity, the mediocrity they could escape from.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

For fuck's sake. I have helped. Kelsey posted those wonderful forums and Brian did thise wOW things. No excuses from you any more.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

And probably the heart of the site - something we all could work on and bring levels of critiquing and writing (we hopefully assume) to new heights.

__________________________________________________
'Break, break break on thy cold grey stones, O Sea.'

What a pleasure to awaken to read this blog and commentary.

I have high hopes for all the poets who have the courage of their convictions to stay the course
and raise the level of mediocrity.

Now there's a critical thought. Smile.

~A

but bad poetry is bad poetry and we have a responsibility as members of this site to help each other improve. It doesn't mean all poetry should be the same or follow the same rules, one sec while I check your profile. You don't state your age but you sound about 15. Read the classics, learn a bit about poetry. All different styles count. Cliches don't.

Yes, as I said in the original blog, we should be kind first, then give crit, then be kind again. If someone,or specially several, people severely crit your poetry maybe you should listen, that is actually stated in the guidelines http://new.neopoet.com/community-guidelines

read them. Also read the Forums. Get involved

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

it's just normally people around that age that think all advice wants to turn them into automatons. My very bad,

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

Age discrimination Jess? I've known many teenagers more mature and insightful than adults. When my kids were young they made connections that I wouldn't have thought possible. (Kids say the darndest things!)

And you might not have heard of this one... a poet and artist at 4...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLJ7j46ek3o&feature=player_embedded

Please, stay on topic Jess. It leads to credibility.

~A

ok?

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

I already saw it. Bad elfie!

Are you familiear with Akiani?

~

I already saw it. Bad elfie!

Are you familiear with Akiani?

~

Always, enter at your own risk, b.

In my experience, there are endless variations of folks and their adaptive abilities. Sometimes anything works and sometimes nothing works. It takes practice on the critiquing and it takes due diligence on the poet's part who is on the receiving end of the critique.

Lastly, it takes an open mind and an open heart to meet on a level where communication happens and the poetry/poet evolves.

~A

At this point I was supposed to wade in with a killer reply to the strange little person. But dammit jess, you are right to try to wright the writer's write. I must go lie down in a darkened room.

Ian

TIME FLIES LIKE AN ARROW, BUT FRUIT FLIES LIKE A BANANA

Think Tolkien, not Santa's little helpers.

And that is my critique to you today.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

Are your medical needs provided by the National Elf Service, like here in u.k.?

Ian

TIME FLIES LIKE AN ARROW, BUT FRUIT FLIES LIKE A BANANA

we are a racist country but pretend not to be by providing health services to all people..
Unfortunately human health care does not help elves much. We cure ourselves with our own magic unless so seriously harmed we need other elves to help

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

Guess I need to go on FleaBay and cancel the order I was going to send you for them little slippers with bells on the ends, eh? *giggles and jumps out of your reach*

In all seriousness, though, this is a fantastic blog. It is hard not to overthink poems, though. Some are just plain simple, and I've found myself sometimes reading way into someone's work. 'Course it feels great when I''m right, and there is a deeper innuendo or suggestion, or what have you hidden underneath. I think new members should be directed towards this blog as 'required reading' for membership.

~ Jess K
"A parakeet is one who takes care of you until the real keet arrives.." - George Carlin http://www.centranthus.blogspot.com

How to read poetry.

I was totally appalled at the lack of critical feedback when I first came back and one of the consequences of that lack is that people don't read with mindfulness, thoughtfulness, or any depth, because they already know what they are going to say "wonderful". "splendid". "brilliant".

We are truly short-changing ourselves, insulting ourselves, by not being critical.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

a good descriptive information about critiquing...thanks for sharing ...

raj (sublime_ocean)

How about putting some of it into practice?

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

but you don't have to be an expert to give critique.

So many people use that as an excuse. Yes, it is difficult. There is the fear of mis-reading or giving offence, but if you can write poetry you can critique it.

All the great poetry movements in history have begun with a bunch of beginners giving each other hell, often coming to blows! That is why Neopoet is so unique and offers such an incredible advantage.

Imagine Shakespeare, Coleridge, Ginsberg, Bukowski and Basho all together in a wine bar when they are just beginning! That is the potential we have here!

Let's revel in this unique multicultural online interactive environment where a wine bottle smashed over your head doesn't cause concussion!

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

many members have said that they don't feel that they have the neccessary skills or education or experience to give a good critical review of someone else's poem.

Well, guess what?

<<looks around, and whispers...>>Neither do I.

I have practise, instead.

Everyone is naturally a critic.

"This tastes horrible"
"I loved that movie!"
"This store is way too expensive."
"I hate this feeling."
"I like walking in the rain."

Sound familiar?
With poetry, you just need to be a bit more detailed, and thoughtful, in your answers.

Here's a guidline:

1. Always say "in my opinion" (imo), especially when critiquing the poem of an author that you have never spoken to before.

2, Never critique the content of a poem, just the poem itself. Is the poem very religious? Does it support a political view that you find offensive? Is the poem on a subject you don't like? Don't bring your personal feelings into it, just tell the author about what you find wrong (or good) with the poem itself.

3. Start by saying something good about the poem you want to critique, even if it is just "Hey you, I like this poem", or "This is a good one".

Now of course you'll find some poems that simply cannot be praised in any way, shape or form. With these, you need to be polite, but firm in your conviction. DON'T ignore the poem because it is bad. Particulary if it's written by someone that you know can do a better job. If you ignore it, it won't get better.

"I'm sorry, but you can do better than this." or "This would improve a great deal if you would..." these statements work fine; polite and matter-of-fact.

But, whenever possible, find something good to say!

4. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. It doesn't matter if you have no formal training.

Guess what? <<looks around and whispers>> neither do I.

Don't be insulting towards the author, but make your position on the merits or failings of the poem clear, and make it simple.

5. How does the poem "flow". Does the poem stop and start, are there lines that

you

get past
cannot (like these)

in the poem without hesitating, or stumbling, because the meter or rhyme suddenly aren't there, the pacing is different, or the grammer or syntax don't make sense? Tell the author of your problem with that. Let them know why you feel the way you do about that particular line.

6. Don't be scared. Many of us start out thinking that authors will be offended by our opinions about their poems, and so we don't critique.
Some will be offended, that cannot be avoided.
If they are and they say so, simply reply that you are sorry that they feel that way, and move on. It's like selling something by telephone: the salesman never takes rejection personally, he just goes on to the next call, knowing that somewhere ahead is a sale. But when you do find someone who is grateful for your comments, and changes their poem in an effort to make it better, its very satisfying. Remember too that this is a workshop, a place for poets to improve their skills. You'll find those that do want to get better, all you have to do is try.

7. Start with criticising the poem of someone that you know, or someone that you know will not be offended. All you have to do is read the comments of others, to know who these people are. But don't fall into the rut of ONLY critiquing those you know won't be offended. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they WANT help until they prove otherwise.

8. PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE. Critiquing is like any other form of written expression: if you don't do it, you won't get better. It really is as simple as that.

So, are you ready to start giving criticism?

Respectfully, Jim

"Laws and Rules don't kill freedom: narrow-minded intolerance does" - Race-9togo

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Race_9togo

I do think that on occasion point 2 has to be dropped. You can be more truthful and objective by stating, in non-adversarial form, your objection to content, then continuing to give critique. And often content itself is the problem eg "just another love poem".

Would you do me the honour of re-posting your comment on my new blog
"Unqualified to critique"?
http://new.neopoet.com/node/2931

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet is a workshop. Poets take the time to read and think about your work and offer suggestions.
There is no obligation to make any changes however please acknowledge critique and comments.

author comment

My pleasure.

Respectfully, Jim

"Laws and Rules don't kill freedom: narrow-minded intolerance does" - Race-9togo

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Race_9togo

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