I've got some ideas for ways to phrase constructive comments for those times when a reader just doesn't know what to say about a poem. Like my last blog post, this advice comes from a reading about writing centers and tutors from my job. The text is Talk About Writing: The Tutoring Strategies of Experienced Writing Center Tutor by Jo Maciewicz and Isabelle Thompson.
Their strategies are designed for writing centers, meaning they are designed for teaching writing skills and helping students understand the goals of their writing or identifying concerns for their writing. Yet, I think they are useful for workshops as well.
Telling: Commenter uses little or no mitigation to direct poet to lower the face threat of their advice (not really advisable)
Suggesting: Use mitigation to lower the face threat of their advice
Explaining & Exemplifying: Commenter offers reasons for and illustrations of their advice
Pumping (terrible term, great strategy): Commenters ask questions (or use inquiry statements) that get poets to think. Suggests reading aloud and thinking about the questions aloud
Responding as a reader or listener: Commenter tells poet what they take away as reader (or listener), paraphrasing what they think the poet has written or what it means
Referring to a previous topic: Commenter refers poet back to earlier occurence of idea or issue
Prompting: Commenter sets up responses from poet by providing partial responses or by leaving a blank for them to fill in
Showing Concern: build rapport with poet by demonstrating that they care
Praising: commenter points out poet's success with postive feedback
Reinforcing Poet's Ownership and Control: commenter asserts the poet's ultimately makes the decisions
There are more options listed, but I feel like these are the most pertinent. I hope they help for anyone who gets stuck or wants to develop their skills in workshop or peer-review situations.
I'm just your average fictional creature, living in a swampland by the sea.