Critique; How to Give and Take
Started by Bombadil1247, 27th January 2006 11:58 in Poetry, Books & Writing

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    Default Critique; How to Give and Take

    Critique and Response.

    Critique offered should address the piece, not the author; critique received should be seen as a resource to help improve the piece, not a personal attack on you. The following is a combination of two posts at another site I use, reproduced with the author's permission, and the content should help both reader and contributor use this tool more effectively. The first part deals with how to give a critique; the second suggests how critiques should be received.

    Source; Rainbow Threads at Born Poets

    Giving Critique

    Since I could not say it any better, I am sharing with you extracts from a piece put together by The Versifier Team which they wrote using helpful hints found throughout the net, so you could say it's an online poetry collaboration.


    When giving critique, please point out good parts of the piece as well as parts that need revision!

    Take care to point out both what works, and what doesn’t. If you’re new to critiquing, a good hint would be to point out one thing you like (a phrase, a description, an idea) for each thing that bothered you.

    Whenever possible, be specific when pointing out things that you didn’t like (don’t just say “I didn’t like this part” or “I’d cut that,” say “I didn’t like this part because…” or “I’d cut that because…”).

    Try to offer suggestions when you think a change is needed. Suggestions, even to the point of an offered rewording, can be very helpful; even if the suggestion isn’t exactly right for the author to use, he or she may get a good idea from it, or at least a better understanding of the point you are trying to make.

    Be honest and direct, but in a polite and caring way. Holding back your feelings about a piece because you’re afraid to share your thoughts isn’t going to help anyone. Just be mindful of how you share your opinions!


    *Here are some things to consider when critiquing your own or other poets' work:

    Subject

    If the poem is personal, does it rise above the purely individual and become more widely relevant? It's easy to forget that poetry is art, not a diary entry, nor journalism. It does not have to reflect the truth exactly as it happened. The facts are no more than raw materials and you should manipulate, adapt and polish until they fit your needs. This alteration gives you a greater chance of writing something that touches other people, rather than something that is dismissed as an adolescent angst poem.

    Does the poem deal with one of the 'big' subjects like love or peace? If so, does it show a new perspective? Or is it stating what has already been said many times? It's usually better to avoid the big issues, or, at least, not to try and deal with the whole thing at once: one specific small incident or image is usually worth a lot more than overwhelming generalizations which tend to result in cliché-ridden verse.

    Title

    Not all poems have a title, but if they do, it should add something to the piece. The first line is useful for reference or filing purposes, but rarely works as a title. Nor should you necessarily use a direct quote from the poem. This is particularly true of short poems where the repetition of a phrase in title and poem may detract from its effectiveness.

    Form and Structure

    There are many formal poetry structures (sonnets, sestinas, dizains, villanelles etc), but sometimes one is more appropriate than another. A well-written sonnet, for example, is a lovely tool for putting forward two contrasting ideas or views of one subject, and then rounding off with a conclusion in the couplet. It is not, however, the ideal form for narrating a story.

    Of course you don't need to use a traditional form: there's nothing wrong with free verse, if it's the best form for what you're trying to say. But do make a conscious decision: the form and content should complement each other.

    Rhyme

    Rhyming couplets and iambic quatrains are difficult to use for serious poetry as the idea often gets subordinated to the form, resulting in doggerel. The same is true of constant end-rhyme: it's tempting to twist the word order, or use archaic vocabulary, to force the content to fit the form. Remember that you can use half rhyme, which is less obtrusive than full rhyme, and internal rhyme, too. And, of course, there are other sound devices such as assonance and alliteration, which can (and perhaps should) be used.

    Meter

    Very few people nowadays believe that verse must have a perfectly regular meter; however, it is still an important aspect of poetry. Even free verse makes use of rhythm to convey or strengthen meaning. One way to find out if your poem works metrically is to read it out loud. If you find that you have to put unnatural stress on an article or preposition, or you have to scurry to cram too many syllables in too short a space, go back and re-work it. Don't ever be satisfied with 'I can make it sound right'; ask yourself honestly if someone else could.

    One more thing - don't think that slipping in an extra article, pronoun, 'and' or 'but' to make it scan is always the best solution: consider whether that syllable is really necessary. Don't pad; rewrite.

    Layout and line breaks


    Line breaks and verse structure don't automatically make something a poem. The breaks work together with punctuation to show the reader how the poem is to be read. Again, reading out loud is important to find the natural pauses, and the places where you need to guide the reader.

    A common beginners' error is to end-stop all lines instead of using enjambment - where the grammatical sense continues beyond the line end onto the next line - which can make a big difference to the flow. In rhyming poetry enjambment can make the rhyme less obtrusive.

    Poetry has been described as writing where the author has more control than the typesetter over the finished presentation. Even so, it's important to think carefully before you start using complex designs. You may think that your work looks better centred, or with every second line indented, but what does this actually add to the poem? A weak poem will not be improved by fancy layout.

    Of course it can be fun to fit a piece about a mouse into the animal shape or to give it a long tail, as Lewis Carroll did, but is it more than a gimmick? Remember that poetry is, to a great extent, a verbal art form: do you really want your poem to rely on visual presentation?

    Sound


    I've already suggested reading out loud, but it's so important that I have no hesitation in repeating myself. The sound of poetry is fundamental, and unless you read each draft out loud again and again you cannot begin to make the best choices. By which I mean choices of vocabulary, punctuation, line breaks: they are all so tightly interwoven that they can hardly be considered separately.

    Incidentally, reading out loud also helps with proof reading, which is fundamental: it's extremely irritating to see an otherwise effective poem ruined by typographic errors. If the poets care so little for their own work that they aren't prepared to use a dictionary or spell checker, why should I be interested in it?

    Finally, a few more points that you need to be on the lookout for:

    Clichés; 'Emerald green hills' and 'wintry winds' have been described so often that they should be avoided, as should 'poetical' words like 'heart', 'soul', 'moonlight' and 'love'. They may be fine in parody, but it's very hard to write something new and serious using such worn vocabulary.

    Internally consistent images: metaphors and similes are a poet's tools, but they need to have some kind of internal logic. Consider 'the train disappeared into the tunnel like a mouse into its hole'. It's true that the tunnel entrance might be like a mouse hole, but can the train be like a mouse? It isn't shaped like a mouse, nor does it move like one. Try and be as objective as possible about your comparisons and images. Will they work for other people?

    Appropriate vocabulary: you may consider that moggy, pussy, cat and feline are synonyms, but I don't think you could necessarily use them all in a serious poem.

    Superfluous adjectives and adverbs: often the image comes across more effectively if the reader has to work a bit: don't use a list of adjectives where one judiciously chosen one will work as well. Each adjective tends to weaken the noun; each adverb weakens the verb.

    Showing or telling: if you say 'I was happy' I have to take your word for it. If, instead, tell me the symptoms of your happiness - how you saw the world around you, how your body felt etc - I can deduce your happiness for myself and empathize with it.

    Don't forget that all these factors must work together. Form, content, vocabulary, layout... all of them are part of a poem, and if used well, the whole will be greater than the sum of the sounds.

    Note: not every point given by any one poet/critiquer is agreed with by everyone and I am certain that this list will not meet the approval of everyone, in its entirety...but I am hoping that we can all learn from those who contributed to it.


    Receiving Critiques
    (thanks to various contributors across the internet)

    How you handle critiques you receive is just as important as how you give them to others. It’s perfectly natural to want to defend your work, but it isn’t always wise to do so in a manner that will alienate those who just might conceivably know a little more than you. When receiving a critique, here are a few things to bear in mind:

    Never argue with someone’s critique of your work. If you don’t like the changes suggested, just say “Thank you,” and move on. After all, a critique is an opinion, and we’re all entitled to our own opinions. And, in Born Poets, everyone is at liberty to voice them with respect.

    Feel free to ask questions. Sometimes, asking a person to clarify what he or she has said in a critique will help you to see why that suggestion was made.

    You are the author, and you have the final say. So, remember as you receive critiques, that it is your choice to accept or reject any suggestions made. This is a useful tip to keep in mind when the group is pretty evenly divided on a particular point (which will likely be most of the time). Don’t feel like you have to change something just because someone in the group didn’t like it; but also don’t make any overly hasty judgments about critiques you receive (sometimes they make more sense when you go back and look at them later).

    If everyone in the group offers the same advice, chances are they’re right. You may not agree, and it’s still your right to reject their opinion, but generally speaking, if everyone has the same reaction, there’s probably something to it.

  2. #2 | 779288
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    Very helpful information there, Bombadil. Many thanks.

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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    good post Jim, there are points I'd like to add later on imagery
    dispelling cliches and a poem i did to show this.

    regards
    Richard
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

    Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936

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    God

    Many names
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  4. #4 | 779338
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    That's really helpful information, Jim. I'm a reader, not a poet, who enjoys many of the contributions here, and there has been a tendency for people like me to say "that's nice" without really saying why, or simply not commenting if something isn't to my taste. These guidelines will certainly help firm things up.

  5. #5 | 780608
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    Thank You Bombadil, that will be very helpful in this terms course at Uni. You have explained the intracasies of Critique more clearly than our Tutor did !

  6. #6 | 780611
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    Should point out that I'm not the author, I only posted this here with her permission. Glad it helps though,
    Jim

  7. #7 | 791344
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    Damn fine post regardless of who wrote it. Some critique is often wasted by the spoilers who deliberately attack for the sake of it, this makes the ground rules clear, thanks again Jim.

    Adamski
    I may show mercy, but I will never ask for any.

  8. #8 | 1248270
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    A big thank you for this contribution. No disagreement with any part of it. However, I would like to add my own very small piece without (hopefully) offending anyone who is interested in poetry.

    I had some 'work' published in 1936 at a very young age on a local basis and most of it would probably have been contrary to 'rules' of poetry. I think that, if people instantly like what they read, any form of balance doesn't matter. I usually work along the lines of content, giving out some sort of message, and rhyming, always of course with the hope that those who read it are as pleased with it as I am to write it .. !

    Olespice.

  9. #9 | 1248289
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    olespice
    A big thank you for this contribution. No disagreement with any part of it. However, I would like to add my own very small piece without (hopefully) offending anyone who is interested in poetry.

    I had some 'work' published in 1936 at a very young age on a local basis and most of it would probably have been contrary to 'rules' of poetry. I think that, if people instantly like what they read, any form of balance doesn't matter. I usually work along the lines of content, giving out some sort of message, and rhyming, always of course with the hope that those who read it are as pleased with it as I am to write it .. !

    Olespice.
    How about sharing some of it with us, Olespice ?

  10. #10 | 1248295
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    Default Re: Critique; How to Give and Take

    I noticed that this thread was started by Bombadil1247 - presumably "Jim". But that he hasn't posted since 29th January 2006.

    Anyone know what happened to him? He used to post his poems on a number of sites but I haven't seen anything from him anywhere for ages. Years even.
    The IBJHFC Rule ok - Everyone is Everybody Else

 


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