This site really isnít about critique, Iíve come to realise and accept. At best itís about gentle encouragement and sharing ideas, which is fine.
Just by its very nature a site like this canít be about real critique - defined as a deconstruction of style and technique - because itís too homogenised. It encourages anyone to join and makes little to no attempt to provide workshopping tools or serious discussion. It asks you to indicate what kind of feedback you want, or if you want it at all, but this is just lip service.
I donít say that as a criticism, just an observation. I myself donít tend to provide detailed critique because itís just not what this site is for. The sheer volume of users all mingling in the same space without any guidance or structure as to how they should participate prevents it. Itís both the best and the worst thing about DU. Best because it gives you the freedom to participate as and when and how you please, worst because that means that it doesnít have any standards.
You can work really hard at your poetry and share it, and get either no response at all or just ďthatís interesting. Write on!Ē (Incidentally, ďthatís interestingĒ by itself is the quickest way to communicate that you donít understand a poem and donít care to.) Meanwhile, someone whose work is at a level where they clearly havenít bothered to edit even as they were writing it might get fifty replies from people saying ďwow, this is awesome, youíre a true poet!Ē, because the subject of the poem is something they like or are excited by. (I feel like this explains much of our ďEroticĒ section.)
As a result of all this, when I comment myself I follow this process: begin with something you like. Then make a very gentle suggestion, couched in complimentary terms (I like what youíve done here, I just think that this poem could use some more imagery, which I know youíre capable of.) Sometimes Iíll just say the thing I liked and move on, and if the poemís too dreadful (filled with misspellings and cliche, barely readable, questionable sexual/violent content) I wonít bother. If Iím friendly enough with the poet I might be a bit more forthright, as I am with Ahavati, because I know that she understands criticism.
Again tho, I donít mean to insult DU. I belonged to a site that focused strongly on critique. It was called The Pig Pen and it died out because it was too restrictive about what users could say regarding each otherís work, demanding in-depth analysis from people who struggled to provide it.
For a few years, Ahavati and I genuinely tried to illustrate through threads and then a public group that through critiquing, members could improve their own writing.
Reluctantly we ended the group because we were systematically prevented from keeping out a certain person who was continually harassing us. And then the entire group with its numerous indepth critiques that anyone could learn from was completely erased to make room for the current group.
And if you backtrack through this thread, you'll find a few of numerous attempts throughout the forum and poems to paint us as part of a cabal of elitists supposedly driving members away with harsh, inconsiderate attacks of their poetry.
So ... we can honestly say we tried to make critique more mainstream around here. Last year we did our best to offer thorough critiques in our Classic Corner Comps.
Now, due to time constraints, we are back to doing it when we feel like it or should someone in need of assistance ask for it.