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Critiquing Word Efficiency, Flow, and Content

Another from my old blog series. 
Of Critiquing Word Efficiency
Unlike prose (a short story, novella, novel, etc.), poetry has a more limited range of space. Poetry is not composed of complete sentences in paragraphs, and so, even epic poetry is limited by how long a line or stanza can be. With that in mind, a poet’s aim is to tell a story or paint a picture for their readers within those confinements. Using words wisely will help the poet to convey their message. 
Often described as “wordy”, a poem that uses lots of excess words that don’t add additional meaning to the poem lose their potency and emotive qualities. If you find you can eliminate words without detracting from the meaning or beauty of a line, do it. Alternatively, if you’re critiquing a poem and you think the poet could omit a few words and maintain the same meaning, let them know. You may find yourself noticing lots of extra “a’s”, “and’s”, but’s” or “the’s”. If the poet doesn’t necessarily need these, tell the poet. Articles, conjunctions and prepositions are usually suspect if a poem is dragging on, choppy, or has a lot of wordiness. You might make suggestions like “____ and ____ could be deleted to eliminate wordiness” or “I think you repeat ____ a little too often. You could omit some of them or replace some of them with synonyms to tighten up the poem.” 
Remember, use your words wisely and your poem’s message will shine through. Don’t let your painting’s subject be muddled by overcrowding foreground details. 
Of Critiquing Flow
Flow in poetry refers to how smooth a poem reads or sounds. If a poem is smooth, it’s easy to go from word to word, line to line and stanza to stanza. A choppy poem will make the reader pause when they shouldn’t. It’s usuallly more difficult to read a poem that’s lacking flow. 
Issues with flow can arise when a poem is too wordy, words are put in a strange order (juxtaposition), phrases don’t make any sense, punctuation is out of place (or sometimes totally absent), line breaks are in awkward places, and if meter is being used, if the meter is done incorrectly (or if rhyme is being used, if the rhymes are ‘forced’). As a critic, if you read the poem aloud and you pick up on one or more of these issues in the poem you can suggest solutions. You may say things like “I think the poem would read a little more smoothly if you switched these two lines” or “I think the poem would read more smoothly if you used some punctuation to help guide the reader through the poem” or “I think you began line seven in an awkward spot, I think it would be better if it began at the word ___ instead.” 
Remember, you want your poem to read smoothly. You want to combine line breaks, logic, and punctuation to guide the reader on their journey through your poem. On the other hand, if you’re the reader and you don’t think the poet guided you well enough, let them know. 
Of Critiquing Content
Poems should be more than just a composition of pretty words; they should connect with readers by telling a story, expressing emotion or invoking thought. Getting the pretty words laid out can often be the easy part, adding deeper meaning, dynamic or emotiveness, can be the tricky part. 
Deeper meaning in poetry can be achieved at its simplest, with the use of metaphor. Your entire poem can draw parallels between a summer’s day and a woman’s everlasting beauty (using Shakespeare as an example) using metaphor (or simile). You can also use imagery, form, structure, pace or tone to help your poem mirror a specific concept or image. If you find that you’ve just read a lovely poem that seems flat or two-dimensional, it could be lacking depth.
Content can also be impaired by cliche or trite phrases or topics. It’s impossible for every poem ever written to be on a totally fresh subject with absolutely new imagery and word choice. But there’s no reason that poems can’t shine new light on long withstanding ideas or put intriguing twists on classics. Do not be afraid to tell someone if you think they’re using a cliche. You don’t even have to state it directly if your not comfortable doing so. Just propose alternatives or ask them how they’re reinventing the century-old adages, topics or imagery their employing in their poetry. I find that sincerity is of most importance when critiquing this aspect of content. I don’t know why some poets seem to think they’re the first to write about a topic or write in a certain style and then take offense if you disagree (taking offence to critique is something I’ll talk about more later). 
Poetry that provokes thought and emotion can connect greatly with readers. Poetry without emotion, interesting words and phrases or any kind of intellectual components will not typically be well received by readers. As a poet, poetry can be very cathartic, but a poem that’s little more than “I feel sad” or “I was angry” will fall short as a enjoyable poem. As a critic, let the poet know if you feel like the poem is lacking emotive qualities or if you think the poem could be more thought-provoking by making adjustments like taking the focus off the poet. You can say “I would suggest limiting your use of ‘I and me’ to help readers connect with the poem. Think about how readers will experience a poem like this and think about how they could experience it if you left them pondering a good question by the end.”    
Remember: Pretty words are important in poetry, but composing pretty stanzas shouldn’t detract from the content of your poem. Also note that sympathy can only go so far in poetry. Think about how your readers will experience your poem and how they’ll connect with it.


Ma'am help all
................cull it

brevity is poetic meat

this is example
only meat
all must eat

Thanks for taking time to write this Blog. For an amateur like me i could pick up some golden nuggets. English not being my mother tongue such inputs help in skill building.

Regards and thanks..

raj (sublime_ocean)

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