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How To Make a (Poetry) Review Go Further

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Tue May 03, 2011 10:17 am
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Lumi says...

When you review poetry, make an attempt to incorporate two or more of these pointers if you don’t know what else to do. You’ll find it suddenly easier to review if you focus on one particular thing instead of trying to eat up the poem for face-value. Below, I’ve given you several aspects of poetry reviews, and exactly how you can pick pieces apart, along with a note about reviewing styles.


One of the most timeless means of reviewing poetry comes about in the form of Impressions--giving the author your opinions regarding what you liked, what you didn’t like, and what can be improved upon. This is a very basic means of reviewing, but it’s very powerful when dealing with things such as controversial topics, experimental grammar, and even word choice. Adding this review element into your critiques is a wonderful foundation; in fact, it’s been accepted into The YWS Critique Sandwich. Giving your impressions, as Nate said, is a fantastic means of opening a review.

Grammar and Punctuation

Have you ever heard someone say that every line of a poem must be capitalized? Have you ever heard that each line must end with a comma? If so, you have heard lies! Kyllorac posted this a while back that says it fairly ideally--punctuate intentionally. When you review poetry, perhaps you can consider this as a tip. The best part about critiquing grammar is that it actually teaches the person you’re reviewing how to use it correctly, so if you know what you’re saying, say it!


Flow is, personally, what makes a poem accessible. When a piece lacks flow, the reader will stumble over words and phrases and probably won’t enjoy it much, if at all. An easy way to get a feel for a poem’s flow is to read it aloud. Do the words roll off the tongue? Do you find yourself stopping mid-sentence to pick up a long word? How can the author fix this?


Poetry has been around quite a while. In respect of this, most things have been said by now. And since everything has been said before, consider how the poet has given his or her message. Are the phrases unique? Are the images fresh and descriptions innovative? If not, try and point the poet in the right direction and give a tip about how to become unique.

Note: Honesty vs. Cruelty

As artists, we all want to sharpen one another; the best way to do this is through honesty. However, if a critique acts more aptly as a mockery of a piece instead of a constructive critique, reconsider what your goal is in reviewing. The point of reviewing is to better your friend’s writing, not tear him down. So when you’re out there on the forums, think of yourself as a teacher more than anything else, and be honest--not cruel.

Of course, this post doesn't cover everything you can talk about. In fact, once you get the hang of reviewing, you'll find it hard to pack it all into one review! If you have any suggestions to add to this, just post them below!
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Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:28 pm
peanutgallery007 says...

Hey (:

I wanted to add something about line breaks. I guess it could go under flow, since line breaks generally direct the reader's eye. But what I wanted to ask was how to correct line breaks that seem inappropriate.

I've been pondering it a while and I've reviewed a lot of poems but I feel when line breaks are off, all I can say is just that; that their line breaks seem off. And then I don't know what to tell them to help them fix it, unless I basically rewrite the poem myself, which is obviously inacceptable.

So that's my questions for someone to answer-- how do you correct line breaks?
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Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:21 pm
Kale says...

So that's my questions for someone to answer-- how do you correct line breaks?

I usually quote a small section where the line breaks are really off and rewrite it, sometimes in a couple of different ways, so that the author can see exactly how the line breaks change the flow of the poem. All the while, I'll be explaining why the line breaks feel off, as well as things to keep in mind about breaking lines (such as how breaking a line puts emphasis on the last/first word of the lines, and how it adds a brief pause as the reader's eye jumps from the end of one line to the next).

Examples are always nice when explaining something, and so long as you only alter a small section of their poem to act as an example, the author shouldn't mind. At least, none of the people I've pointed out line break issues with have complained. >.>
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