Writers can be solitary people. Our work requires long periods of being alone with no one to keep us company but the characters. However, I’m starting to see a community form through the Write Practice. People are commenting on each other’s practices. They’re chatting with one another in the comments. This is what keeps me motivated to write posts every day. I love it.

Writing Community

Photo by Christian Sholz

Writers read their friend’s work and give feedback. It’s what we do. CS Lewis read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings before it was finished. Lord Byron and PB Shelley read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in its infancy. This is what a writing community does.

Which is why I’m so excited to introduce a poem by my blogging friend from Chicago, Bethany Suckrow.

Bethany is a freelance writer, and authors up a warm, inviting blog called She Writes and Rights which you will have to visit afterward. Today, Bethany and I are swapping poems for critique.

Yesterday, I posted a poem on her site for feedback. Today, she’s posting her poem on the Write Practice.

How to Critique a Poem

Our job is to help Bethany make a finished poem by telling her what it’s like to read her poem from your perspective. We can get so close to our work that we don’t see how our writing affects our reader. In other words, our job is to help Bethany see what her poem really is, not what she wants it to be.

As you read, pay attention to three things,

1. What works.

What turn of phrase makes you say, “Mmm… that’s good”? What imagery do you find vivid and interesting? What emotion does Bethany capture superbly? What does it remind you of in your own experience?

2. What doesn’t work.

What is confusing about the poem? Where do you have a hard time following her? Where do you get bored reading? And why? Where is the writing weak?

3. The center of the poem.

What is the poem about? The best poems are about one thing. They have a center. What is this poem’s center?

Think about those three things as you read Bethany’s poem:

The Journey

I’m looking for big and small graces,
Changes in generational habits – inherited fear,
Moments of gratitude, of forgiveness,
A setting aside of resentment,
A way to draw near.
We need no pity, only grace,
to say,
whatever we thought mattered-
it doesn’t after all these years.

I want to move forward,
but I need a bridge.
If it’s not there waiting,
We’ll build one
out of found materials,
things we didn’t know we had until we started looking,
uncovered truths about who we are
together,
and for each other.

We’ll meet in the middle,
brave the current,
shed the baggage and rags.
At it’s end, we’ll light the fire
for warming hands,
share a meal,
make ourselves whole again,

look up at the canopy of stars:

God, we exist in a world you’ve given us.
Why did we think we had no meaning?
In each branch and pathway leading,
You met and mended us,
brought us here.

Bethany is a staff writer and freelancer by day, blogger and artist by night. She authors the blog She Writes and Rights, where she shares both prose and poetry related to life, faith, relationships, storytelling and creativity. She has just begun her first foray into selling her artwork through an Etsy shop, The Ripe Word. She and her musician husband Matt live in the Chicago suburbs.

PRACTICE

Today, we’re practicing critiquing. After you’ve read the poem, give Bethany some feedback based on the three criteria we talked about earlier:

  1. What works.
  2. What doesn’t work.
  3. The center of the poem.

Share one of each.

If you have some time left over, I would love it if you went on over to Bethany’s blog to critique my poem, too.

And thanks for being part of this community, friends!

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).