Suggested guidelines for critiques in a poetry (or other writing) group:
- A critique must be polite; no building yourself up by tearing somebody else down.
- A critique must be specific; if you think the tone doesn’t work, point out specific words, phrases or lines that make it wrong.
- A critique must be about something fixable. It is not helpful to object to the subject matter, for instance — the poem is about what it is about.
- The poet must be willing to accept critiques of the poem as a poem; if it’s too personal and tender to submit to criticism, keep it locked away or wait for a more sentimental occasion to share it.
- The poet must be willing to listen to reasonable critiques, but is not obligated to agree; the poem’s final form is the poet’s responsibility, not the group’s.
Update: I failed to credit my writing group, The Collaborators, for the first three items. Those principles have worked for them for 20 years.