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> I've Never Critiqued Before, by Norman D Gutter
post Apr 2 06, 13:12
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Referred By:Imhotep

I've Never Critiqued Before

A lot of people don’t particularly want to critique the poems of others. They begin to do so, however, as a matter of necessity. They want to know if they are any good as a poet, and want to post a poem to a critique forum. Yet the workshop demands reciprocal critiques. So they jump in. At least that’s what I did, and I’ll bet most of the critters on this site did the same. As a new poet, I knew nothing about critiquing, so I had to learn fast.

I had some prior experience in another rapid learning situation. I became Teen Bible Quizzing coach at our church, starting up a brand new program, knowing nothing about it and having a team of rookies. We went to tournaments and learned fast, winning a second division first place trophy in only our second tournament. I had told my team, “Watch the better quizzers, and start doing what they do. Get to know them, and ask them how they study, and what the techniques are for the actual quiz.” I did the same with other coaches, and found one of the experienced coaches from a nearby town who was willing to mentor me as a coach.

It’s about the same in critiquing poetry. Look at many poems in the critique forums. Take note of those critiques that seem to be the best, remember who wrote them, and follow the critters around the site. See the sorts of things they comment on for various poems. Try to figure out what they know, and how they do their crits. Then start doing what they do. If you feel comfortable, ask one of them to mentor you on the side in critiquing. If you can’t find someone willing to mentor you, pick one or two to continue to follow around and pretend their critiques were written just for your instruction.

Also of great value is to read much on the art and craft of poetry. I always fear, as I’m getting ready to write a critique, that I will say something dreadfully wrong and show myself to be a fool. So, in addition to observing the better critters, I obtained a library of poetry textbooks and appreciation books. All but one I got at used bookstores and thrift stores. I have about 12 such books now with a total investment of about $20 US (and $16.50 of that was for the one new book I bought). I keep reading in those as time allows, continuing to build my knowledge of what makes a poem good, why one particular poem stands out from the crowd. So far I have read less than 25 percent of the total pages in my poetry craft library, so I’ve still much to learn. Of course, much is repeated from text to text, only stated in different ways with different examples.

Then, do some “shadow” critiquing. Pick a poem that you strongly like or dislike . Block and paste it in your word processor. Decide what it is about the poem that you like or dislike. Think of specific items, specific poetic devices used or missing. Then write a crit of it that probably no one but you will see. Take note of the forum it was in, and structure your shadow critique according to the standards of the forum. When you are “done”, print it out, and study your own critique. See if everything seems to make sense, that you are fairly sure you haven’t made an embarrassing mistake. If you have found a mentor, send your shadow critique to your mentor by PM/e-mail, and get feedback. I’ll bet you will find that, upon reading the printed version, you will say, “You know, this isn’t half bad,” and decide to post it. Do shadow critting for as long as you want, till you feel comfortable going public.

Is it really that easy, you ask? Probably not. A lot depends on how quick a study you are. Some might be able to ramp up their crit game fairly quickly; others will take longer. Be sure, however, that if you stick with it, you will soon find yourself among the ranks of the critters, and others will be following you around, and seeking you out to mentor them.

If I may be so bold, I would like to append a poem I wrote about my own experiences joining the critter brigade at the Poem Kingdom site (which now exists with a new name).

Best Regards,

Ode to a Critter

I came to Poem Kingdom new
to poetry, in need of help.
The rules said “Three crits you must do
for every time you post.” Big gulp.
I lurked a while to watch and see
how crits were done. It seemed to me
I shouldn’t stay a mere fence-sitter,
so I chose to be a critter.

To my surprise I much enjoyed
exchanging comments through the keyes.
So “feet” and “iambs” I deployed
as best I could. Some were displeased,
but others thanked me for my time
to comment on their metered rhyme.
I made some glad, some others bitter.
That’s how I knew I was a critter.

It’s now been months. On many days
I forced myself to write critiques,
and somehow find in others’ lays
the meanings, metaphors, techniques
the poet used to form each verse,
to praise at times, sometimes to curse.
When one called me a heavy-hitter
I thought, “Egads! I am a critter!”

I think the discipline that came
from writing crits has helped my craft.
I may not ever see my name
in print. And some may think me daft
to dream the poet’s dream of such.
These poets, though, don’t know me much.
I’m just the runt of bard-dom’s litter.
At least some friends still call me “Critter.”

To post my crits now seems the norm,
to never more sit on a fence,
to plunge right in, in calm or storm.
Perhaps the written evidence
will someday prove I was a fool,
but I embrace this Kingdom’s rule.
So look out, world, cause I’m no quitter.
I guess I’ll always be a critter.

Copyright © Norman D Gutter (penname)


"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Collaboration feeds innovation. In the spirit of workshopping, please revisit those threads you've critiqued to see if the author has incorporated your ideas, or requests further feedback from you. In addition, reciprocate with those who've responded to you in kind.

"I believe it is the act of remembrance, long after our bones have turned to dust, to be the true essence of an afterlife." ~ Lorraine M. Kanter

Nominate a poem for the InterBoard Poetry Competition by taking into careful consideration those poems you feel would best represent Mosaic Musings. For details, click into the IBPC nomination forum. Did that poem just captivate you? Nominate it for the Faery award today! If perfection of form allured your muse, propose the Crown Jewels award. For more information, click here!

"Worry looks around, Sorry looks back, Faith looks up." ~ Early detection can save your life.

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post Apr 4 06, 16:12
Post #2

Creative Chieftain

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Joined: 24-April 04
From: Connecticut
Member No.: 58
Real Name: Ron Jones
Writer of: Poetry

Dear NDG,
Nice to see your name in print and reading your comment and verse.
I'll be watching for your postings.
Cheers,   Ron  jgd


Ron Jones

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Mary Boren
post Jun 7 07, 13:27
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Real Name: Mary Boren
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Referred By:Kathy Earsman

Well said, Mr. Gutter. Critiquing is risky business, and I don't know anyone (I hope!) who has reached a zone of total comfort in doing so. It was always a hot topic of conversation at my former poetic home. Though long defunct, P.O.E.M.S. Place was inhabited by some extremely accomplished poets (some of whom you'll now find here at MM) whose knowledgeable opinions and advice rings forever true. Some of the reader/critters here might enjoy and/or benefit from these discussions:

Are You Comfortable with Critiquing?
Critter Confusion: Critique vs. Rewrite
Critter Candor: Wise Words
Critter Confidence: Inside the Mind
Critter Consensus: Anachronisms and More

Thanks for listening.



Mary Sullivan Boren
Connecting ... Even Yet
"There is in all things - a hidden wholeness." -Thomas Merton

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post Jun 15 07, 10:51
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Ornate Oracle

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Joined: 3-August 03
From: Florida
Member No.: 10
Real Name: Elizabeth
Writer of: Poetry
Referred By:Lori Kanter

Mary thank you for those links! Magnificent additions. I am so glad to have you here sharing your resources, knowledge and love with us... God brings gifts in many ways...for me, having you around is one of them! wink.gif

Hugs, Liz ...


Nominate a poem for the InterBoard Poetry Competition by taking into careful consideration those poems you feel would best represent Mosaic Musings. For details, click into the IBPC nomination forum. Did that poem just captivate you? Nominate it for the Faery award today! If perfection of form allured your muse, propose the Crown Jewels award. For more details, click here!

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