Our January session was on Bilston Dozen, led by Keith and Karen.
Bilston Dozen, our poem-a-month project, has been running since January 2016. Keith showed us what it looks like on screen, for those who aren’t on Facebook, and gave us an example: one of his poems as he first posted it, the comments and suggestions he’d received on the site from group members, and his revised version of the same poem.
The aim of the project is not only to encourage group members to write a poem a month on the prompt theme, but to give and receive feedback and, ultimately, write better poems. As Keith pointed out, even Wilfred Owen used suggestions from another poet (Siegfried Sassoon) to improve his poems.
Karen handed out short, anonymised poems that she’d found online for us to analyse in pairs, and we had a go at writing tactful feedback, as if we were making suggestions directly to that person on Bilston Dozen. We used Jo Bell’s Big Ruthless List for Poetry Writing as a guide for things to look out for. Examples of critique methods: the 3:1 method (three positive comments to one suggestion) and the critique sandwich (praise – constructive criticism – praise).
There was even a handy list of phrases to help us word our suggestions tactfully, including ‘I wonder if…’, ‘You could try…’ and ‘Would it be better if…’
Some of the advice on giving feedback included:
It’s much more useful to the poet to say why you like their poem, rather than just clicking ‘Like’.
Don’t rewrite people’s poems for them. Let them do the rewriting if they want to.
And on receiving feedback:
You don’t have to agree with what someone else says, but try to see their point before dismissing it.
Thank the person who has taken the time to comment (giving feedback can be difficult and time consuming).
To end the session, we started writing down ideas for January’s prompt on Bilston Dozen: Time.