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Shore Lines

Why I Like Critique Groups

Two weeks ago, I bemoaned my lack of writing as the new year began. But on the 6th, I met via Zoom with the members of a poetry critique group I enjoyed attending in 2019. Although meeting online wasn't as much fun as meeting in person, it was a pleasant change to see whole faces, not just eyes, and to hear everyone's voice. I submitted a poem I'd been having trouble with, and the excellent feedback I received helped me revise the poem into something much more substantial.


My normal poetry-writing process is to write too much and then cut, usually ineffective first lines, a weak ending, and unclear images in between. This time, I reversed that, because the group helped me realize I was simply describing a scene instead of showing how I felt about it. Adding more sensory details, and expanding beyond the initial scene, have made it a stronger poem that says something now. It probably needs more revising, but now I have much more to work with.


Most writers have a hard time seeing our own work objectively. That's why it's so important to find other writers who can help with us with that. Family and friends who love us will rarely want to hurt our feelings by pointing out anything negative, so we need other writers to provide the constructive criticism necessary to guide our revisions.


Over the next few days at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway, I should come up with four more draft poems. Each will be workshopped by a small group of other poets. These hastily written first drafts will be far from ready for publication, but the comments will help me see what works and what doesn't, and will lead me into the revision process with concrete suggestions in hand. This workshop process works very well for me; I've had about 20 poems published that began with a draft at the Getaway.


No ferry ride this year, but at least I have a water view to inspire me!

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