How To Critique A Poem
Just as there is an art form to writing poetry there is an art form to critiquing poetry.  The ability to write a quality critique is a skill, and just like all types of writing, it is a skill that requires thought and practice.  A good critique is a valuable offering that you make to the poet. The critique helps the poet to understand how their readers feel about their work.  Most writers are very appreciative of constructive feedback.

Critiquing is not about analyzing the poem; it is about helping the poet to become a better writer.  Before you jump into critiquing take a read of the following, to write the most beneficial critique possible.

READ.  Read the poem a few times out-loud.  It is important that, as a reader, you do your best to hear and understand each word.  Did it flow?  Did the words roll off your tongue?

STYLE.  What poetic style did the writer chose?  Many poems have very specific rhyme schemes or meters; did the poet follow the rules of the type of poem they chose to write?

CONTENT.  Did they use clichés?  Were they redundant in their word choices or the imagery they used? Was there little variation between the syllables, meters and simple vowel rhymes? How was their choice of words?  Did they use symbolism, irony, metaphors or similes?  Where they’re any inconsistencies?

ORIGINALITY.   Is it original?  Be careful with this one, just because it is the same old topic does not mean it’s not original. 

EMOTION.  Were they able to make you feel something?  Did it leave you thinking about its theme after you were done reading it? Did it offer you insight?  Did it pull at your heart strings? 

I NOT YOU.  When you write your critique always use “I” and “I feel” not “You” and “Your poem is” to describe how you feel.  Remember what one-person loves another may hate.

BE POSITIVE.  When you critique the work of others always be positive and constructive.  Rather than say something hurtful say nothing at all.  When you say something negative support it with constructive statements like: “I feel this poem would have been more effectively rendered by” or “I would suggest.”  Always start with something positive.  If you do say something negative, remind the poet that this is merely your opinion.

ADD VALUE.   A critique should help the writer learn to write better poems.   Offer suggestions from the point of the view of the reader. Point out places that aren’t clear or inconsistent.  Make your advice as concrete as possible.  “I love this” and “This is bad” aren’t enough.  If you can’t think of something to offer in form of structure or content let the writer know your interpretation of their poem.  Letting them know how it made you feel is just as helpful.  Don’t be afraid to point out things you don’t like.  This will only help make them better.  But, if you do this, point out the positive and always remember a little encouragement goes a long way.

PRACTICE:  There are a ton of great poems here at WritingRoom for you to critique.  The writers here truly appreciate your comments and critiques.  Also, critiquing others poems only helps to make you a better poet.

JMariah   JMariah wrote
on 9/21/2009 8:30:22 PM
Well, I don't agree that "Most writers are very appreciative of constructive feedback". I know that many sites are set up for writers to get this kind of feedback from fellow artists. But in my many years of writing and commenting on others' poetry, I have found that most writers post only to get the "wow, nice poem" or "I really like this" comment. I've had to feel out each site very carefully to see what writers were looking for, because I have offended many unintentionally by critiquing and not simply leaving a favourable comment. What I would add to this article is to keep in mind how the poem made you (the reader) feel. What things worked or didn't work and why.

Iviedoe   Iviedoe wrote
on 3/1/2009 2:26:57 AM
very informative report. i do though agree with DocLivingston on 2.25.09. I would like an article classifing the several sorts and genres of poetic conveyance. What does writing Room have to say about that?

DocLivingston   DocLivingston wrote
on 2/25/2009 7:13:14 AM
I would like to see a definition of poetry styles. Not just for critique but to label my own writings. I can recognize Haiku and limericks, but what is a sonnet ? When you have a regular rhythm and rhyme what is the style? I suppose I could look it up on wicipedia but I am more interested in the opinion of Writing Room.

DwayneKilbourne   DwayneKilbourne wrote
on 10/12/2008 12:16:04 AM
Great ideas and recommendations. We are all in this writing craft together, and we all should be supportive. How we critique one another's pieces of work is very important! Thanks again for the guidance!

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Tips on critiquing poetry.