For over twenty years, I have run a writing group. Currently, I run the Saratoga Poetry Focus Group, which meets every third Wednesday from nine to noon with from four to six poets who get from 30 to 45 minutes each to read their poems, hear their poems read to them and get a round table commentary about what works and suggestions for improvements.
We met today with four poets for three hours and I heard really good poetry from three good poets and got feedback on my own poetry. Currently, I am working on five full books of poetry, so I asked for just numbers 1-5 for a big stack of my poems that I read only once while the group had copies in front of them. 5 means finished, 4 almost finished, 3 needs work, 2 needs a lot of work, and 1 is crap that does not deserve my time.
Why do poets need a poetry group? Because poets need feedback on the poems they are writing to understand how others perceive them. While writing in a vacuum may have worked for Emily Dickinson, know that she chose her reclusive life.
Not a groupie? Don’t want to join a regular group? Then, be brave enough to get yourself out to open microphone poetry readings and learn what poems work for people by assessing their reactions when you read your poetry.