Even though workshop [This is a post for ENG 203, but others can read along] will look different online, what makes good feedback is pretty much the same as face-to-face. The main difference is that your fellow students will not be able to see you when you give feedback, so the little facial movements or vocal intonations that can add so much will not be possible. This lack can also lead to misunderstandings or even hurt feelings. Emotions can run high with poetry workshops in particular, so I wanted to write about feedback in hopes that this post can head off any huge problems. Here is a bullet list of ideas that have helped in the past for written feedback given online.
- When giving feedback, don’t do a line-edit for the poem. Assume that the poet knows how to check spelling or punctuation himself/herself even if they didn’t this time, and concentrate on the bigger things, like what the poem is trying to do.
- Before responding, read the drafts carefully and respectfully. Your peers may not write as well as you or the same way as you, but they deserve respectful and thoughtful feedback based on their intent about what the poem should do, not what you think the poem should be.
- When responding, be kind, but also be to the point. Feedback that says, “Great poem!” doesn’t help. If it really is great, say why specifically, like “I really like the way you use line breaks to create short pauses in the narrative.”
- If you don’t think words completely show your intentions, use emoticons. Moodle has a complete range of emoticon images. Click the “?” for using the textbox, and it will give you HTML suggestions (in case you want to add a link or bullet points) and the keystrokes you need for each emoticon.
- Make sure you give suggestions for revision. Make them specific and say why, if possible. Revision is a must. There IS honestly room for improvement. If you don’t know what to suggest, at least say what is confusing to you as a reader. I will be making instructor comments that will most likely address changes that will help.
- On your own draft, expect your peers and your instructor to suggest changes or give suggestions for future drafting on the poem. This does not mean you did anything wrong. Trust me, all initial drafts need more drafting, even ones done by professional poets. It is common for professional poets to go through 30 or more drafts, and most poets don’t count drafts in order to avoid being depressed. Good poetry takes refining.
- Most of all, take the drafting process seriously, but do not take it personally. The poem is not you, and revision feedback is directed towards the poem and is not an attack on you. When people write about personal things/events, they can take feedback VERY personally and get upset about any suggested changes or any suggestion that the draft is not perfect as it stands. If this happens to you (crying is a sign that it is), consider that the subject of the poem may be too recent or too painful yet to effectively write about and seriously think about starting fresh with a completely different draft. Email me or phone me (Skype too) to talk about it, and I will give you permission to do that; I will also give fresh feedback for the new draft.