When a practiced poet or poetry editor critiques your work, the suggestions might seem like you’ve been asked to perform surgery! So what do you do? Outburst into drama? Argue about each comma? Or wonder if people who have never read a poem but claim perfection for their first plops onto paper might be right?
Once you get over the shock of seeing red marks or penciled comments on your poems, these suggestions may help:
Look at each poem. Really look. Does the shape reflect its shape of thought or vision?
Consider each revision as a Re-Vision or fresh way of seeing.
Envision what you want your readers to see. Then experiment.
Read each version of the poem aloud and listen for the tone you like.
Heavily edited poems may need the rhythm restored. If so, recast the lines to find new rhyming pairs.
Or break free of end-line rhymes entirely. How? Just break the lines differently, so rhyming sounds occur randomly or within the lines.
If the critique calls a word choice into question, think about synonyms that clearly say what you meant.
Also, replace a questionable or unclear word with a synonym that increases the sound echoes in the poem. Say, you used a multi-syllabic word that marred the rhythm, so instead of “uncomplicated,” you try “minimal,” “simple,” or “plain.”
The best options for a new word choice depend on the context of the poem, the overall theme, and the surrounding sound echoes you want to emphasize through repetition.
Again and again, read the original poem and each revision aloud to hear which version appeals to your poetic ear and sounds just like you.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. For a professional critique with honest feedback that includes workable suggestions and encouragement of strengths, you’ll find minimal fees and information about what to expect on the Critique Page.