Did you Know~ Bittersweet Critique

by Beth Winter~
Learning to accept critique as beneficial is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to learn. To begin with, poets take pride in their work and often write as personal expression. Learning that someone thinks our work could be better puts us in a defensive posture, ready to dismiss the critique, undermine the ability of the one offering criticism and go as far as argue our case. For some reason, we would rather argue for no change than accept that in another’s opinion, our work could be better.

Imagine grade school. You are sitting there with your hand in the air, eager to share your valuable knowledge. It is your turn and as you finish presenting your point, the teacher says you are wrong and proceeds to point out the errors in front of the class. Demoralized, you stand and stare at your feet.

Now imagine a classroom where after giving your response, the teacher says “I really like your answer even though I don’t agree with parts of it. Would you consider these points instead? Thank you for sharing.” Both bolstered and corrected, your mind is opened to new ways of seeing things and you still have pride in your work.

Self-defense is a natural response when challenged. Effective critique is made up of two elements, giving and receiving. When giving critique, point out the good as well as the not so good. When faced with receiving critique, take a breath to slow impulsive reactions, begin your response with thank you and consider that a differing opinion may have value. As always, critique is simply someone’s opinion. You’re allowed to differ.


3 thoughts on “Did you Know~ Bittersweet Critique

  1. Beth, the scenarios you present seem plausible, and in some sense reasonable. I would be more comfortable were I to understand better the intent and content of the criticism. Situationally, there are times when misdirection could be detrimental to expression, and I regard negative commentary according to sources inherently malicious worthy of being ignored. Happily, I do agree that constructive criticism, given with due respect and consideration, can achieve benefits and is, therefore, worthy of note. Also, should someone give criticism based solely on style or academic standard, ignoring content(or simply not comprehending the intentions of the writer), the message suffers from negligence when so critiqued. This is the reason poets do not like criticim, usually, and rightfully so, when their arena of expression is the wrong one for their needs. They need a new forum. One less structured to the tastes of professionals, but nurturing and, thereby, more casually supportive and instructive, like this one.

  2. It’s giving critique that I have trouble with. I know what it can take to get those words to paper…I also know the healing that can come when one does. For those who are precious with their work, it can be incredibly difficult to hear advice no matter how it may be delivered. I think with poetry, it is so difficult, because the work is quite often left up to the readers interpretation, and often, even a word change or a comma placed can alter the entire tone of the piece. I do, however, appreciate a well thought critique, and always find it to be quite flattering when one takes the time to recommend a change (not that I always change them) It’s a tough road for alot of us, and I so appreciate your thoughts here.

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