Poetry critiques are a healthy check on works of poetry by critics or literary examiners. Just as there is the form of writing poetry, so is there the art of critiquing poems. A good critique offers value that improves the poet’s ability. They aid poets to understand how readers feel when they engage their works.

However, giving the wrong/negative critique (even if unintentional) caarthutnign be heart-breaking and benumbing to an aspiring writer.

Critiques should be to help the poet become better and not damage their self-esteem.

Thus, before you take a commence critiquing another a work, this read should help you create the most beneficial critiques in any case.

While most writers are very appreciative of constructive and factual criticism, a good lot are not. It is best to understand which would sort of criticism would work best in different cases.

It is worthy of note that whosoever wishes to examine and review a poem should have a fundamental knowledge of poetry to be able to deliver a sound criticism of any poem.

How to Properly Critique A Poem

Read (More than once)

It is very important as a critique to not make first-hand based judgements and assumptions about poetry. Just as a book, do not judge merely at one look at the cover. To be great at critiquing, it is important that one is not so quick to give an outright critique based on a few lines into the poem or just through reading the whole work at once.

Take it a couple of times, check to see what felt off, what lines rhymed, which didn’t. Look out for the glitches more than the errors.

Asides from reading more than one, reading out loud is one of the most useable methods of proof-reading. This way it is easier to spot some nasty errors in the work being examined.

It also helps with understanding the stress, meter and rhymes (both internal and external) in a poetry.

Type/Style

As a critic, it is best to know and understand what style of poetry the author uses in the work. Is it free-verse? blank verse? Shakespearean sonnets or others. Many works of poetry contain certain rules and conducts to them. Did the poet follow such rules or was he/she a flout with them?

While it is not necessary nor is it mandatory for all poets to follow the dictates of traditional poetry types such as the 7-5-7 syllabic rules of the old haiku. It is an extra add-on for the critic to note this when examining the works. It makes critiquing much more fun and also raises more questions from the examiner.

Mood

The mood of any poem holds a great key to uncovering a potent part of the work.

Try to understand the meaning of the words, situations, events, settings, colors (even) used by the poet.
Are they hopeful about something, are they sorrowful; almost steering the reader to tears, are they happy; to make glee, are they for the couples; for want; or are they for the family of a dead; mournful?

Cliches

Yes, we know Roses are red and violets are blue…. but come on, no one woos anyone with those lines anymore.

When working a poetry review or critique, one should keep a sharp look out for clichés in poems.

Poetical words such as beautiful, heart, love, hope, soul, moon, sky have been over-used over the years. It is about time we moved on. Poets should search for newer and more appealing words to tantalize their reader with.

Showing The Reader or Telling Them?

If the poem reads ‘She was beautiful’, sure we’d all agree. But, if it describes her beauty in the — …how everything else felt less colorful because of her well-tanned skin… — then I will know someone obviously has been weaved into a beauty nest and will be able to imagine that for myself.

Message of the poem

As a critic, it is an obligation to seek for the vision of the poet in their products. What does the poet wish with this work? What does he hope to pass on to its reader?

Is he even passing a message at all?

Questions like these will greatly help in understanding what is being read.

Structure

Look well into the structure of the work. Of course modern-day poets keep on displaying their wealth of creativity through the instauration of newer poetic structures. Many of which have no recognized names even. Some structures to look out for;

  • Stanzas

What do you feel about the stanza structures? Do you think the work would have been better as broken down stanzas or as a solid (one) stanza poem? Many times, people write amazing poems but they do not properly structure their stanzas. This makes it a boring read as reader have to face staring at a long piece of work.

  • Line breaks

As you look at the poem on the page and hear it read aloud, do the line breaks seem natural or make the poem confusing?

In so many cases, the use of enjambment (run-on-lines) would be a better fit for some lines than a full-stopped, commaed lined break.

How To Give Effective and Constructive Criticism

Be Positive

Critiquing is not aimed at destroying a writer’s ego or their sense of pride. It is more of helping the poet improve on their craft.

The effectively critique the work of another, one must be positive and constructive in their approach. Even in the case you have a negative comment on someone’s writings, support such statement with positive introductions such as “I feel this poem would have been better if …” or “I would suggest that you …’’

Also, always remind the poet that the critique is just your opinion of their work (especially if you do have to give a negative feedback on a work).

You don’t want your name as the villain in their next book, do ya?

Give Praises too

The essence of a critic is not to showcase the faults in poetry. It is also so praise the high points of the work. As a critiques, while you take notes of the issues and problems you find with the work, one should also laud the well-executed part of the works too.

Never Judge, Critique

As a critique, one is not a judge of the work. Critiques are only to help poets/writers understand how people who engage their works feel about them. Learn not to make judgments, but comments. Make use of “I feel, I think” in your statements more than you use “You should have”

Confirm Originality

How original does the work seem. Is it based on another person’s poem?
A lot of poets in modern times find joy in making a sequel to the work of an acquaintance or from someone whom they admire. This is one aspect to look out for. Also there’s the plagiarism aspect of things.

Find the Message

The message a work of poetry carries is the most valuable piece on the chess board. As a critic, it is your job to find that out and ask questions surrounding it.

Include a Disclaimer

Let the poet understand that this is just a critique to their work and they can decide to throw your words into the nearest gully should they decide not to agree with it. Phrases such as ‘Take these for what it’s worth’ is a very common way to say “This is what I have to say, but you don’t have to listen.” Remember, poetry always changes and art is generally in the eyes of the beholder.

The goal of a critique is to try to make sense of a work by analyzing and understanding it piece by piece, critics have to do a great job at understanding the works before they make critiques on them.

Ask What Is Unclear

Even with a critique, questions still get asked. There will be parts, expressions, phrases that might have their meaning unclear to the critic, when it comes to this, the best thing is to ask the creator of the work what he/she meant with such.

After all, the creator of a work should know a lot about their work and the meanings that lie behind them.


Further readings:

https://annieneugebauer.com/2011/09/22/how-to-give-critique-with-poise/

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Emmanuel Ojex

I am here to use my ART as a mean to make IMPACT in the world. Join me in doing so.

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