April Poetry Critique Circle

By Stacey Lupky

What struck me the most from this Poetry Critique Circle was the strong sense of support and community the group naturally shared with each other. Each of the participants sharing their poetry held space for each other to be vulnerable in their readings and concise in their feedback.

Our host for the April 24 event was Jake Reichart, who facilitated the two-hour Zoom meeting with thoughtfulness and helpful advice. Poem themes ranged from a love/hate relationship with Winnipeg, to erosion and the fences that hold it in check, to death and subsequent loss. All were read aloud with heartfelt voices by their poets.

I was delighted by discussions focusing on the critiques and learned so much just by listening. Tightening lines and axing erroneous words came up. Poets who wrote verse were asked to consider prose poetry as a form instead because when read aloud, the poem seemed to suit it better. Being concise was mentioned more than once where stanzas might be combined, or poems with multiple ideas strengthened by focusing on one idea and expanded. The group talked through an idea that if you remove a word, would the poem still say the same thing or have the same feeling? In addition, singular words packed a punch and removing gerunds made a poem tighter.

A lively discussion ensued about using words in poems that the reader may not understand or relate to. Should a word resonate with the reader instead of being explained cognitively? For example, a poem contained the word gabion and the poet did not go into detail over the meaning of that word as she assumed, having spent plenty of time at the lake, that people would know exactly what she meant. In another instance, the intercultural side of language was raised. Multilingual poets who use words and idioms with different meanings — do you stop and explain, or do you let the reader come up with their own interpretation? How much clarity is too much clarity?

On more than one instance in the evening, laughs were had over choosing titles for poems. A lot of times the title was the last thought after the poem was written, or in one case, the last line of the poem. Opinions went back and forth about whether a title was good or not.

This group knows each other well and readily commented on the wonderful growth of each other’s work. I felt encouraged just hearing them lift each other up in this way. Genuine compliments on beautiful prose, simple yet repetitive language, good transitions, lyrical forms and honestly were all applauded.

Constructive and empathetic critique is a fundamental need for fledging writers. This critique group has it. Next time I show up, I’m bringing a poem with me, despite never reading my poetry aloud to a single soul. I encourage you to join next time yourself and feel as welcomed as I did.

Skip to content