What is Constructive Criticism?

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What is Constructive Criticism?

Post by cameron » Thu Sep 22, 2005 8:24 am

Constructive criticism is feedback which helps a poet to improve his/her work. It does not necessarily mean praising, or saying that you like a poem. In fact, I could totally dislike everything about a poem: its form, its content, its tone, its style but by explaining the poem's weaknesses I am trying to encourage the poet to write better poetry. Obviously the poet is at liberty to ignore what I say but my intention in criticising it is constructive.

Constructive criticism works by highlighting specific examples. If a poem contains a cliche such as "shifting sands" or an archaic term such as "beauteous" then I would bring this to the attention of the poet. This should be done in a respectful and helpful manner. Saying a poem is "crap" is not constructive. The poem may indeed be "crap" but you need to explain why. Similarly, saying a poem is "marvellous" is not necessarily constructive either.

One of the main dificulties in reviewing poetry is that the whole process is subjective. Different people like different types of poetry and have differing opinions regarding what constitutes quality. Unfortunately, a poem cannot be assessed using a Mary Poppins tape measure. However, people who are knowledgeable about poetry often agree that certain poems are better than others. The ability to recognise good poetry is a skill in itself - one that is often developed over a period of time by people who care passionately about poetry and who have engaged closely with it.

One of the problems with internet poetry forums is that they are used by people with hugely variable abilities and therefore there is no guarantee that the feedback you receive will be meaningful. (You have to judge for yourself.)

Many poetry forums deteriorate into 'love-ins' because they are frequented by people who have little or no knowledge of poetry. These people often give false praise to others who have little or no ability to write poetry and a climate of delusion is created.

I am determined that this forum will not turn into such a place. As a result, I am looking for people who are serious about their writing, take on board relevant criticism and use it to improve their work. This does not mean that you have to be as good as Philip Larkin to post here but you must want to learn from others. Evidence has shown, that by using this forum properly you can dramatically improve the quality of work within a relatively short space of time.

If you simply want to show-case your work or receive a pat on the back then this is not the place for you; and I respectfully suggest that you look for a forum which better suits your needs.