What’s in a Critique of a Poem?

If you enter the Lawson-West Poetry Competition and make a donation to LOROS (Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief of Suffering), you’ll get a critique or feedback on your poem.  If your donation is under £5, you’ll receive a tickbox critique.  Larger donations will get a longer critique.  So what will you get?

What a Critique of a Poem is

  • A critique is an evaluation of your poem. 
  • It will not be just criticism. 
  • It will also include what was good about your poem and why it was good.
  • It will comment on the weaker areas but give tips on how to improve these.
  • It’s about balance and helpful advice.

What a Critique of a Poem is not

  • Only criticism.
  • A focus on the weaker areas of your poem with no tips on how to improve.
  • Comments on the poet or the perception of the poet on the basis of the poem.
  • A commentary on the subject of the poem.

Personally I think being told that stanza two is weak is actually very unhelpful.  Chances are you already knew that, but couldn’t see how to make it stronger.  My approach is to explain why it’s weak and offer suggestions to get you to think about what you want that stanza to achieve and how best to achieve it.

A good critique will also help you edit other poems you have written too as you’ll see how to address the weaknesses in one poem and how to look at your own poems critically.

Tick Box Critique

The tick box critique has four areas of focus and all assesses the poem overall:

  • Title
  • Form
  • Language
  • Treatment of poem’s subject
  • Overall.

Each of the areas of focus has space for comments and there is also space for additional comments.  So what am I looking for?

  • Title – have you ever stood in a bookshop and picked up a book because the title looking intriguing?  Will your poem get read or remain on the shelf?
  • Form – does the form suit your poem?  If using a traditional form, I don’t expect strict adherence to the rules but an understanding of what makes a sonnet, ballad, sestina or your chosen form.  If you’ve used free verse, have you created a framework for your poem or merely written chopped-up prose?
  • Language – is your language appropriate to your poem?  I don’t offend easily but I do get offended by offensive words used purely to shock rather than being a coherent part of the poem.  Have you looked at the sound patterning of words?  If you use rhyme have you mangled the natural word order to achieve rhyme?
  • Treatment of poem’s subject – there’s no theme so any subject will do, but bear in mind a description of a boring Sunday afternoon in boring clichés will not win a competition.  Your subject doesn’t have to be big – a well-crafted domestic poem has a bigger chance than a sloppy war poem – but your poem has to say something.  It can contain a list but has to be more that just a list.
  • Overall – what is the overall impact of your poem?  Would I want to read more of your poems based on the one you entered?

Longer Critiques

These will look at the areas covered in the tick box critiques but in more detail with a closer line by line reading of your poem.

Will having a Critique affect my chances of winning?

No.

I will be writing the critiques separately from judging the competition.  If you chose not to make a donation to LOROS and receive a critique, I will still be reading your poem as closely as I would if you have chosen to have a critique of your entry.  There is no disadvantage to selecting to have a critique.

The advantage is that you will have feedback on your poem.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments below, but comments are moderated to filter out spam so any comment won’t appear immediately.  I will answer, but that may not be immediate either.

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