Top Nine Feedback Points from SST6 Drafts

18 Feb

The idea of feedback and helpful criticism has been really hot at Mouthy the last week. So here is a collection of Deb’s common feedback points given on the SST6 poems. Think about these when writing or redrafting your poems to get them as tight as possible!

1) Form and Concision.

Look at every stanza in your poem as a unit of meaning; an image, an event, a tone – each new stanza changes the event, meaning, image or tone and looking at line breaks a highlighting elements on these. This enables you to cut out repetition, tighten up images, reorder sentences and ask yourself – what do I actually mean here or what is the most important point in this unit? Is this unit important at all?

If your poem feels unwieldly, like it’s got more words or longer sentences than it needs, try playing around with a more rigid stanza formation.

2) Word Choices.

Get out the thesaurus and ask yourself if there are more accurate/original options for words – this gives you the opportunity to out every word in the thesaurus and make sure you have chosen the best, most rhythmic for your poem. Each word has slightly different tones and add a layer of impact to the poem. Spending more time over word choices will help you tighten up certain phrases and images.

No clichés! You have a unique set of experiences and perspectives which people want to see in your poems! If you find yourself using a word-out phrases, challenge yourself and ask  – what do I really mean? Then brainstorm some alternative metaphors, similes and images. You can also try to put each word of the cliché in the thesaurus and come up with a more accurate and original alternative.

3) So What?

What’s the point of including this? This is a question poets and performers have to ask themselves a lot. Maybe a free write explaining this would help you pin it down. Or try drawing a diagram of use different characters and images in your poem and what they represent to you. Another thing you can do is work in small details that allude to a bigger picture of what the poem is about or its central metaphor. This is especially important at the beginning and ending of your poem.

4) Choosing a Title.

Read this post about the different purposes of a title. After reading this, make a short list of ten titles, then you can go back to them after editing your poem again. You could talk to other people about which they think works best or even set up a Facebook voting poll to choose the right one.

5)  Get Specific.

Instead of using undefined ideas or ambiguous sentences, give specifics. ”Stop what you’re doing” – what are they doing? The washing up, scratching their arse, drinking their macchiato…? A specific reference will tell the audience more about what kind of poem you are creating.

Try to show instead of tell, through images and examples. For instance, rather than saying ‘she is losing him’ replace the generalisation with examples – “she is forgetting the smell of the toast he makes her”, “she is losing the creases in the shirts he washed for her”.

6) Poetry Doesn’t Have to Rhyme.

Watch out for rhymes. It’s easy to get caught up and be lead by the rhyme rather than the meaning, which sounds lovely but can make the meaning not so clear. Have a look at your strong rhyming sections and ask yourself: is this what I really mean? Are these the most accurate words for my feelings/story or am I just choosing them because they rhyme? Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme – go for words which convey exactly what you want to mean rather than have a particular sound.

7) Grammar.

Consistent what tense and person perspective you are writing in. Make sure it stays consistent throughout, unless it is completely deliberate and changes for poetic effect. If you want to carry a sense of immediacy and personal honesty, stay in the first person. Also

8) Cutting.

If you have really strong particular lines or images, consider cutting out some of the less strong ones to let the vital parts shine and be taken in by your audience.

9)  Characters

If your poem is very long or has lots of different characters, this can be confusing for an audience especially if you use a lot of ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’. Try drawing a diagram of the different characters and the relationship between them or bullet point the action of the poem. Then redraft your poem to make sure these are clear from what you’ve written. Ask other people to listen and check that they’ve understood so you know your audience will follow.

~ feedback by Debs, compiled and edited by the Creative Placements


3 Responses to “Top Nine Feedback Points from SST6 Drafts”

  1. erikleo March 31, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    I just read your poetry tips. You may be interested in my Ten Tips for Writing Poetry on

    • mouthypoets April 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

      Thank you for reading and we will definitely have a gander 🙂

      • erikleo April 4, 2014 at 7:37 am #

        I’ve had another poetry writing idea: everyone chooses the same painting to write a poem about. 🙂

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