Baffling, I know, but the fact is: not everyone is a big poetry fan. 😀 However, even if you couldn’t tell the difference between a sonnet and a haiku (and wouldn’t care to), here are some tips to help you give your poet colleagues helpful feedback on their work in your writing groups and / or review the poetry of your favorite indie authors.
Even if you don’t think you “get” poetry, you can still be helpful. You do your fellow authors a disservice when you keep quiet just because you aren’t an expert (whatever the fuck that means) on poetry. Poetry is just another form of expression, especially emotional expression. Most poems are a mere reflection of an event (everything from a near-death experience to a passing thought while waiting for the bus) that the poet has strong feelings about. Treat the poem like that person is telling you about their day at work, that traumatic event, or that passing thought they had, in a flowery / gritty / cryptic way.
Guess what? Saying that you were confused is a valid answer!
There may have been parts of a poem that shocked you, intrigued you, scared you, or even lead you to feel angry or sad. If you experience any specific emotions, this can be what you share with the poet. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to react to a poem. Nodding back to tip number 1: Just relax.
If you were confused, try to flesh out why. Were there too many words used that you didn’t know the meaning of (signifying that the poet may want to look into simplifying the language)? Was there a total disconnect in your mind between what the poet wrote and what they said they were trying to convey (signifying that the poet may want to consider sharpening the imagery)?
If the poem lead you to feel sad, which line stood out as the most depressing to you? If the poem lead you to feel shocked, at which word, line, or stanza did you first have that reaction?
Arm yourself with these three tips whenever you go into a writing group that you know poets frequent and you should be able to stay involved in the discussion. Remember these as well when you are attempting to craft a review for a book of poetry in order to publicly support your fellow independent authors!