The act of writing poetry is something that is very personal to us poets, and sharing it for the first time can be a very frightening experience. The first experience of having your work criticized can boggle your mind and set you back a step in your writing. However, critique is essential in any writer’s career. Accepting criticism is something that we all must face, even if we don't like it.
When I received my first harsh critique, it was on an Ezboard workshop, and right then I wanted to give up writing.
How to give a critique: Short reviews like: "good poem," "I like this," and "awesome," are not useful to any poet. When giving a critique, remember that poets are looking for an in-depth critique. As writers, we thrive on and grow as writers by getting both positive and negative comments on our work. At all times keep your responses respectful. You don't have to take a critical, lengthy review approach, when commenting on others’ poetry. You might just want to comment on the way the poem struck you, what you liked about a poem, or what threw you off about a poem. Maybe you can quote part of the poem and tell why you liked that verse. You don't have to write a book; just a few comments can really help someone know what works and what doesn't. Remember to be tactful, and never disrespect the writer. Poets are sensitive souls, and they take their poetry to heart. There is a wrong way, and a right way to say everything. You can offer constructive criticism, where the poet is going to learn from it without being disrespectful; never mock your fellow poet.
Here is an example: You just read a poem and all you can find are reasons you disliked it. Maybe it had a number of spelling/grammar mistakes, and run on sentences. Instead of commenting on just the bad parts of the poem, start out by pointing out the good things. For instance, you could say,” I think you've done a really fine job expressing your emotions. However, I believe that your poem could use some work on the structure to make it complete. I noticed a few spelling and grammar mistakes. I really think this is a good attempt and, if you are looking for a more in-depth critique, I would be happy to work with you to tighten up the poem.”
How not to give a critique: Never critique the author; critique the poem. Never change the poem, and put it in your own words. When you do this, it is no longer the poet’s thoughts. Never think that you are an expert in your field. All poets have room for improvement. Never look at another poet as a failure. Instead, keep in mind, just as in movies, not every poem will appeal to you. Don't point out every line in the poem that needs work. You should save that for a more in-depth critique, if the poet desires it. Don't come off as an arrogant critic, which is not the way to help people, or win friends in the writing business.
Critique is important to all poets. However, if you feel that you are an expert on poetry with no room for improvement yourself, then maybe you should stay away from critique groups. Instead, turn your creative energy toward your own work to see how you might improve it."