Online poetry communities, in their simplest sense, are sites you join to share poems and to meet other poets who also share an interest in poetry. However, finding an exceptional poetry site, dedicated to its poets, is not quite that simple. With so many poetry sites out there, how do you choose which one is best for you?
1. Membership Fees: Some poetry communities say they are free, once you join, however, you have to “upgrade” for additional features. Other poetry sites rely on donations, and advertisements. Look for a site that is no more than $35.00 annually.
Bottom Line: Find a site that only charges you ONE fee to use EVERY feature on the site.
2. Site Features: Look for a site that has tons of features, not just a few lame areas of posting and reading poetry. A good rule of thumb is this: For every $2.00 you spend annually, you should find ONE UNIQUE Feature of the site. If you are willing to spend $40.00, then you should get at least 20 UNIQUE Features.
Bottom Line: Find a poetry site that offers as much bang for your buck as possible.
3. Communication System: An online poetry community should be a community. An internal mail system, and an active Bulletin Board—a place where poets share ideas—is a must.
Bottom Line: Find a site that has a few ways poets can communicate.
4. Feedback System: Examine not only HOW you receive feedback, but the QUALITY of that feedback. Will you simply be getting brief comments? Is there a point system in place? Does that point system address areas of analysis that are important to you?
Bottom Line: Find a site that has a quality review system that provides you the feedback you are looking for.
5. Recognition Programs: Most poetry sites function as a fancy bulletin board for posting poetry. A solid poetry site encourages friendly competition, and a way for you to measure your progress. Being able to rise up the ranks, gain recognition from your fellow poets is not only fun, but rewarding.
Bottom Line: Find a site that encourages several recognition programs and poet rankings.
6. Site Layout: A poetry site should be clean, inviting, friendly, and easy to navigate. Many sites are just the opposite: laden with ads, thousands of words, and links that bring you everywhere but where you ought to be.
Bottom Line: Find a site that is clean, fairly devoid of ads, strong linking and ease of organization.
7. Poetry Database: Most online poetry communities lack meaningful poetry research tools. A site that provides its poets with as many links to resources as possible, is one has your best interests at heart. Bottom Line: Find a site that helps you learn poetry forms, movements, history, poets, etc., one stop shopping if you will.
8. Awards: Poor sites have either no award system, or a poor awards system. Quality sites invest in their members. Would you rather win a quality award, or receive certificates, magnets and bumper stickers in the mail?
Bottom Line: Find a site that is dedicated to giving back to its community in the form of quality, timely awards.
9. Support: So often I hear poets lament the fact that “no one seems to be behind the wheel.” A quality site responds promptly to its members, usually less than 48 hours. Send a trial email, see how long it takes to hear back.
Bottom Line: Find a site that responds to your concerns, questions, or suggestions within 48 hours.
10. Free Trial: Avoid any poetry site that does not give you AT LEAST a 7 day free trial. You should be able to access ALL the site features, not just a few teasers.
Bottom Line: Find a site that allows you a generous, all access FREE TRIAL, so you can fully understand its community.
Finding the right online poetry community doesn’t have to be difficult. If you asked me what ONE thing I would look for it is this: The more features a poetry site offers its poets, the more likely your experience is going to be a great one.