|Issue #44 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter
Your editor is: Kate - Writing & Reading
[ Table of Contents ]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links
[ About this Newsletter ]
Kate - Writing & Reading kicks off the new year with pointers on reviewing poetry. It's a great way for those who don't normally review poetry to get their feet wet. For those who are more experienced, it's a great refresher and might even give you some ideas for future reviews.
[ Letter from the Editor ]
Poetry ~ Critique and Review
I am honored to be your guest host for this issue of Reviewing News and Views. I
would like to take the opportunity you’ve given me to share my take on the critique of poetry, which many find a challenge more daunting than reviewing a short story, expository article, or even a novel.
Despite being generally shorter in length, focused on a single theme or plot (like a photograph or tangible work of art) and, today, with such variety of accepted styles, form, and substance, many writers are intimidated by the prospect of offering critique of poetry, seeing it as a criticism of the poet and not the work. If we read like a writer, we are able to offer valid critique of poetry in the form of a constructive, cogent review.
A poem is not the poet, but the image in words created by the poet. It’s a verbal painting or sculpture that opens communication between the poet (the artist), sometimes over the passage of centuries or even millennia. A poem is a crafting of words that conveys the image as perceived and uttered by the writer. Note my references to communication in sound and image. If we keep that in mind, we are no longer intimidated.
There is but one rule, I firmly hold, in poetry.
Read All Poetry Aloud
Then, reading aloud (which is how I open the substance of my written reviews), one can
separate the poem from the poet and hear the words, see the image, and write a cogent
First, read the poem from beginning to end and note your initial reaction – do the poet’s words have an impact on you, whether or not you agree with the poet.
Then, reading aloud, examine the poem from every angle – the diction, imagery, meaning, shape, length, complexities of meaning, even the title (if there is one, or a tag).
Observe the sound and form of the poem – do the line breaks, stanza breaks, enjambment, appear to fit; appear to fit the poem’s overall image or message.
Hear the rhythm and meter - is it natural, integrated to the structure of the poem, not forced but fluid. Don’t worry if you don’t know the formal conventions of meter; reading aloud, you will hear the symmetry or lack of rhythm.
Listen to the words, hear the images they convey individually as well as
integrated – do they set the mood of the work with economy, impact (vivid action words or images – here’s where we look for the verbal image – vivid and active, not passively retold).
Note the rhyme or lack of rhyme – is it consistent; are shifts made with intent, perhaps to convey emphasis, not lack of effort. If a poet cites to a specific form, see if he/she maintains it or strays and, if straying, does it appear to be with intent. In free verse, hear the assonance and alliteration in the sound of the words – emphatic emphasis and lingual legerdemain (a quick example of both these techniques here).
Now, after reading like a writer, you are prepared to offer your review of the poet’s work – remember, the work, not the poet.
First, summarize the plot or theme as you understand it, as you might in a conversation, to express your take on it. Highlight here a positive point; an image that left a vivid impression, a rhythm that moved you to tears, or laughter, or contemplation, for example.
Then offer the writer your critique founded upon your critical analysis of the work, reading as a writer. Using any one or more of the points above, formalize your review and present your considered opinion to the writer. Did he/she get the image across with clarity, depth, and technique. Consider the poem a symphonic work of art ~ do you hear the solo and the chorus; can you see both the painting as a whole and the nuances of light and shadow; do you feel the texture of the verbal mosaic as well as the bumps and valleys that make it unique? If you cite to a particular line or stanza, remember to set it off as the author’s work (usually with quotes or italics) and include your comment or suggested change thereafter.
Then I conclude my review with thanks to the writer for sharing the work and encourage them to keep writing
Now, for fun, here’s a little refresher of the five most common metric forms ~ no, we’re not talking higher math, check it out ~ as wordsmiths, don’t you think it fun to know the names of the tools we use to build our craft, if only for our own confidence in using them?
Taking the fear out of meter for rhythm – hear the beat as you read aloud the following, with vocal stress on the capitalized syllables ~
to LIVE, to WRITE, i AMB = iambic (like a heartbeat)
SLOW the PACE with TRO che = trochee (trochaic – opposite beat of iambic)
SPON DEE’s LYRIC CHALLENGE – spondee (individual stressed syllable)
NOT just the DACtyl of PTER a pre-HIS tory = dactylic (a pensive rhythm, not the pterodactyl’s end)
I’m a PEST I’m a PEST anaPEST = anapestic = feel the stress, emphasis, ‘pest’ering the ear, the senses?
If you’d like to expand your technical reading (and writing) knowledge, a fun book to read on poetic forms, with examples new and classic, check out the following, Rhyme's Reason, a Guide to English Verse by John Hollander.
I end where I began, with my thanks for the welcome to your virtual home, and
invite you to check out the following and offer your considered comments, remembering that
though there may be form and style, there is but one rule in poetry ~ Read All Poetry Aloud ^_^
Keep Reading, Reviewing, and Writing!
Kate - Writing & Reading
[ Editor’s Picks ]
Now, take a few minutes and read (aloud) some of the following work, and offer the writer's your considered critique in the form of a review
Looking for a considered critique and review, or some good reads the writers would like for you to review, check out the following ~
Remember, keep reading, and reviewing, with the eye of a writer ~
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[ Ask and Answer ]
All feedback is welcome!
[ Useful Links ]
"Feedback Central" – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
"Reviewing Newsletters" – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.