As a poet, you are probably looking for support, suggestions, and some advice about getting your work published. When you decide you’re ready to share your work and join a writing group, keep a few points in mind. Poets can be a sensitive lot so try to put that aside as much as possible and be open to suggestions. In other words, develop a thick skin and don’t take everything to heart. The mere fact of having a reader to look at your work can be a godsend. At other times it can lead you astray. Criticism can be hard to evaluate whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, so think over every suggestion other poets make carefully. You are the creator of the work and the final judge.
I was lucky. The first poetry group I joined was run by two San Francisco poets who had moved to Spain. I was terrified to share my work and that was one of the reasons I never chose the route of academic creative writing. On top of that, I had been involved in a relationship with a writer who was very critical of everything I wrote. So to actually join a group took a lot of courage.
There was only one other woman in the workshop; she restored medieval manuscripts and was a gentle soul. Every session started with a relaxing glass of wine and ended with some prompts for more writing. The two poets who ran the workshop were full of praise and long comments on my poems which was exactly what I needed. That gave me confidence and their suggestions helped me get my first chapbook published. The only problem came at the end of the workshop. One of the poets said my style of poetry was not in favor and it would be hard to publish. Thankfully, I didn’t listen; in fact I protested. One of my objectives was to get my work out to the public. If I had taken that advice, I might never have been published. Believing in yourself and your work is the lesson I learned.
Next, I tried an online writing group since I was still living abroad. This was definitely a mixed bag. I had some good suggestions particularly from one participant who was the one I turned to for any suggestions. There is usually a kindred soul in any group.
What stuck in my mind from my short-lived time in the workshop was a line in a poem I wrote in a poem called “Mediterranean”. In that line I wrote about the freedom to die by being trampled by a bull. Well, that led to protests and readers saying how offended they were by the allusion to bullfighting and how they couldn’t possibly read further. The reaction shocked me. I didn’t let them censor my work, nor should you. A writer has freedom, albeit within reason. In retrospect, I feel a certain pride that something I wrote could generate such passion.
These days, I am involved in yet another poetry workshop. It’s funny how the word has become a verb and yes, that is what happens. Poems are work shopped, line by line. Obviously, the positive aspect of getting good feedback outweighs the negatives or I wouldn’t continue. After each meeting I go over the suggestions I’ve received and find many of them helpful to fine tune my writing.
One of the negatives of writing groups in poetry there are often members who don’t understand what a poem is. It is obviously far more than a collection of words and though I may struggle coming up with a definition, most of us can recognize a poem immediately. I have found many writers of prose who think they are writing poems when in fact, the work resembles a flash fiction piece more than a poem. That isn’t an issue unless this writer gives you suggestions to pad out you poem with more words and explanations. This has happened to me more than once. I don’t want my poem to be indecipherable yet I don’t want to lose any magic of sound or rhythm it might possess. Watch out for feedback that wants more and more explanations. You don’t want your poem to be converted into something else.
My final advice is to listen to critiques, but the final decision is always yours. Polish it and write the best you can while keeping the integrity of your poem.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
The poetry, fiction, and essays of Terez Peipins have appeared in publications both in the United States and abroad including Anak Sastra, Barcelona Ink, The Barcelona Review, The Buffalo News, Conte, The Kentucky Review, Melusine, and Pedestal, among many others. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry. Her novel, The Shadow of Silver Birch is published by Black Rose Writing. She won the 2016 Natasha Trethewey Prize in poetry from the Atlanta Writers Club.
Categories: Guest Blog Posts