Old 11-25-2009, 08:19 AM   #1
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what makes a poem good?

tell me.

for you, as an individual, how do you KNOW if a poem is good or not?
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:33 AM   #2
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The short answer

Quote:
Originally Posted by chipbutty View Post
tell me.

for you, as an individual, how do you KNOW if a poem is good or not?
HA! Now you have me
by the short and curlies.

Would that I could pronounce live
these attitudes that lurk
dripping saliva from snarling mouths that flash
veteran teeth in the belly
of this thudding beast and,
like that hapless Count,
would die in light of day.
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:42 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by chipbutty View Post
tell me.

for you, as an individual, how do you KNOW if a poem is good or not?
There are sweet poems and there are discomforting poems, just hits the right level of sweetness or the right eruditic discomfort.

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Old 11-25-2009, 12:16 PM   #4
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There are sweet poems and there are discomforting poems, just hits the right level of sweetness or the right eruditic discomfort.
Your answer, "By the level of sweetness or discomfort," really hits the sweet spot for me.

It depends, though, on what is causing the discomfort. If the poet is using uncomfortable structure to enhance my discomfort at the content or theme of the poem and it all works in tandem for me, then I think of it as good. If I am uncomfortable because the poem has unintended dissonance or is full of noisy useless words and I start squirming it is not so good.

Formulae are another cause of discomfort and promotes mediocrity. One may write the perfect Elizabethan sonnet insofar as the formula is concerned while saying nothing of import or saying something of great significance in a clumsy way. If clumsy, halting lines effectively illustrate a clumsy halting moment in a character's experience, it is good and the discomfort has resonance.

I suppose it has a lot to do with the intention of the poet and how well that intention is realized by engaging the intellect, emotions and physical body. The rhythm speaks to the body to enhance the sense that the intellect draws from the words to produce an emotional response and the way that these dance with each other can delight the intellect leading to more complex emotions as you smile through your tears and you just know that you have found a good poem that is just having it's way with your entire being.

That's why I wish I could understand more of the poems I read and cannot tell if they are good or bad.
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:53 PM   #5
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well now gentlemen, interesting responses to this hoary question.
I'll come back and answer you later but hope more might reply first.

I wonder who else will put themselves on the table for examination?
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Old 11-25-2009, 05:15 PM   #6
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If I like it, it's either good as it is or has the potential to be made better. There needs to be some idea or theme driving it, it needs to not be cliched or clumsy in the word choice and (usually) there's a natural rhythm when I read it that moves me along through the piece.
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Old 11-25-2009, 06:42 PM   #7
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Ditto to Ange. A poem is effective for me if I feel syntactically, intellectually and emotionally engaged, particularly if the engagement is complex or surprising.
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Old 11-26-2009, 03:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline View Post
If I like it, it's either good as it is or has the potential to be made better. There needs to be some idea or theme driving it, it needs to not be cliched or clumsy in the word choice and (usually) there's a natural rhythm when I read it that moves me along through the piece.
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Ditto to Ange. A poem is effective for me if I feel syntactically, intellectually and emotionally engaged, particularly if the engagement is complex or surprising.
thanks, ladies

A poem can be classed as good on many levels, but ultimately it's what happens at that personal interface that matters most to us as individuals. If we engage with the piece; if it moves us; makes us think; read again - and again to savour its nuances, that's when it becomes a good poem to us. A poem can be perfectly formed and still suck donkey balls, or random and untidy yet presenting a kernel of pure genius. I guess the very best are when all elements combine at the optimum moment and these poems sing out - a clear voice broadcasting its own truths in a world where truth is the poem, everyday truth having become irrelevant.


did I mention this was only my opinion?
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:13 PM   #9
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I think that a poem is good when you share some kind of feeling with it when you're done reading it, like something inside moves you. Lately, i've seen a couple that share some "mutual feelings", and there's some kind of bond with it, and you like it because of that. Thats just my personal opinion.

For example:

I read one a couple days ago that talks about hate, but doesn't really say the word "hate",and the message was delivered successfully making me say "i know what this person is trying to say or going through".
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by airblade View Post
I think that a poem is good when you share some kind of feeling with it when you're done reading it, like something inside moves you. Lately, i've seen a couple that share some "mutual feelings", and there's some kind of bond with it, and you like it because of that. Thats just my personal opinion.

For example:

I read one a couple days ago that talks about hate, but doesn't really say the word "hate",and the message was delivered successfully making me say "i know what this person is trying to say or going through".
and there you go.
like music, art, dance - it has to move you in order for it to work for you.




having said that, some people are easier moved than others, more susceptible to the moods of an art form. and some are so closed their opinions will leave others shaking their heads, bemused.
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:31 PM   #11
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and there you go.
like music, art, dance - it has to move you in order for it to work for you.
Yeah, hence why i said "in my opinion". I usually try to do something similar when i write, but i'm still not confident enough with my writings.
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Old 11-26-2009, 05:42 PM   #12
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Yeah, hence why i said "in my opinion". I usually try to do something similar when i write, but i'm still not confident enough with my writings.
all we have are our opinions, airblade. and they are as likely to change as not. what you think about a piece today may bear no resemblance to what you make of it 5 years down the line. that's being human for you

As to your own writings, all you can do is KEEP writing. And reading. Reading and writing. Getting 'good' isn't something that's there instantly, nor is being a decent poet any guarantee against writing a stinker from time to time. We all do it, we've all done it. My older work mostly makes me cringe! BUT I was happy with them at the time because they were the best I'd ever written And we grow as writers only with experience. It's not a process you can rush, and you'll go through many ways of writing - experiment. But above all, ENJOY the whole damned thing. If it gets you down or you find it makes you anxious and too frustrated you gotta start asking yourself if its all worth it.

Have you posted your work here on the forums?
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Old 11-26-2009, 06:17 PM   #13
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all we have are our opinions, airblade. and they are as likely to change as not. what you think about a piece today may bear no resemblance to what you make of it 5 years down the line. that's being human for you

As to your own writings, all you can do is KEEP writing. And reading. Reading and writing. Getting 'good' isn't something that's there instantly, nor is being a decent poet any guarantee against writing a stinker from time to time. We a do it, we've a done it. My older work mostly makes me cringe! BUT I was happy with them at the time because they were the best I'd ever written And we grow as writers only with experience. It's not a process you can rush, and you'll go through many ways of writing - experiment. But above all, ENJOY the whole damned thing. If it gets you down or you find it makes you anxious and too frustrated you gotta start asking yourself if its all worth it.

Have you posted your work here on the forums?
No i haven't, i guess i'm not confident with myself yet... hard to say why i really haven't done it. Not really the type of person who shares with everyone, i usually keep what i write to myself and after a couple months i get rid of it... sad that after a while i go back at it, and ask myself why i got rid of them. ... confusing... i know
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Old 11-27-2009, 01:02 AM   #14
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I xould go for the short answer of what Dickinson said. Good poetry should make you feel as if the top of your head has been removed. Lol

For me, my feekings have changed since moving from just a reader to a writer as well. As a reader, I want you to take my head off every time. As a writer, it is my goal to do that, but, realistically, I know that is impossible. Even beloved poets of mine have some clunkers in my opinion.

So, a good poem for me has a flicker of life in it. It makes me be in the moment of what the writer is trying to convey, if only for an instant. It says something I feel in a way I have never heard, or from a viewpoint completely different from mine. It makes me understand the writer's mind, and through its uniqueness, helps me understand the world beyond the small scope of my own vision. It may convey a negative feeling I thought was unique to me and make me feel that I am not alone.

But, as with my music, and my art, being a creature compelled to achieve the above qualities, I find that, after actually engaging in. Writing, composing and drawing, I found much of the people I admired fell down in my eyes. Artists (of all three mediums) I thought genius fell to mere mortals. But on the other hand, some deepened my awe of their conduit to the timeless.

I am now both much more critical and much more forgiving when reading, listening or looking at something creative. If it has no spark for me, I ignore it, but if it contains even a hint, I will try to help the person draw out what I see, to kindle the flame. But of course, I could be way off from their vision, thus I always say 'for me' lol.
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Old 11-27-2009, 05:47 AM   #15
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I xould go for the short answer of what Dickinson said. Good poetry should make you feel as if the top of your head has been removed. Lol

For me, my feekings have changed since moving from just a reader to a writer as well. As a reader, I want you to take my head off every time. As a writer, it is my goal to do that, but, realistically, I know that is impossible. Even beloved poets of mine have some clunkers in my opinion.

So, a good poem for me has a flicker of life in it. It makes me be in the moment of what the writer is trying to convey, if only for an instant. It says something I feel in a way I have never heard, or from a viewpoint completely different from mine. It makes me understand the writer's mind, and through its uniqueness, helps me understand the world beyond the small scope of my own vision. It may convey a negative feeling I thought was unique to me and make me feel that I am not alone.

But, as with my music, and my art, being a creature compelled to achieve the above qualities, I find that, after actually engaging in. Writing, composing and drawing, I found much of the people I admired fell down in my eyes. Artists (of all three mediums) I thought genius fell to mere mortals. But on the other hand, some deepened my awe of their conduit to the timeless.

I am now both much more critical and much more forgiving when reading, listening or looking at something creative. If it has no spark for me, I ignore it, but if it contains even a hint, I will try to help the person draw out what I see, to kindle the flame. But of course, I could be way off from their vision, thus I always say 'for me' lol.
ahhh - poetry that achieves that is beyond good to me. Poetry that makes me feel like a topped boiled egg is, imo, dwelling in the realms of greatness.

I like what you say about how having become a writer you are both more critical and forgiving. And about how idols' feet ought not to be rubbed. And yeah, the obligatory 'for me' or 'imo' which is important, really, since some slap up comments which others may read as facts rather than a voicing of a personal perspective.
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:23 AM   #16
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Yes, I suppose I did describe greatness, as opposed to good, lol. But I think we could get more agreemenr on greatness than 'goodnes'. I mean, a limerick can be 'good' in the sense that it makes you laugh and is clever, but we probably would have just as many people bristling at it (not necessarily on this forum, giving its innate sexuality, lol) and thinking it was in poor taste.

I think 'good' poetry, in that sense, is much more subjective, since it probably is less deep, less universal, by design, or not, than great poetry. So it is more a matter of do you like that subject, do you enjoy that form, etc. I mean if we are talking about blank verse, or slam-style poetry (I.e. pretty free and formless, a lot of 'rules' go out the window. Besides actual spelling errors, or vagueness in getting the point across, it all comes down to your personal tastes. So if it a 'country' poem and you are a 'rock and roller' the poem won't be good to you.

I fully admit that you can probably have the same debate with 'great' literature, though. There are several 'masters' that I am in a minute minority in thinking they are horrid writers, and I will never read again. But they have been remembered and praised for centuries in some cases.

I won't divulge names because I don't want to start any debates, lol. Just my opinion.

But in general, I would go with Strunk & White's Elements of Style basic rules (omit needless words, use the right word, etc.). I Think if you are writing with clarity, even if you are breaking rules, as long as you KNOW you are, and not doing it because you didn't know it, or it slipped past your personal grammarian, then a good poem is one that says something and, we can hope, does so with conciseness, a form of rhythm conducive to the subject (even if, as Lorencino said, it is purposely contrary to it), and some personal flair.

Beyond that, we are in the realm of personal tastes, I suppose, if we ever left it. :>
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:25 AM   #17
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...
And yeah, the obligatory 'for me' or 'imo' which is important, really, since some slap up comments which others may read as facts rather than a voicing of a personal perspective.
When discussing poetry, art and aesthetics 'I believe' and 'IMO' is superfluous [for me](hehe) I just assume everyone knows when I'm voicing an opinion versus when I'm trying to state something objective or making a fact based argument(which should still read when making a fact-based argument: 'I believe I'm making a fact-based argument') That's why it rubs me the wrong way when someone goes out of their way to tell me 'that's just your opinion', "I know it's my opinion, you know it and everyone knows it. You're just being confrontational because you don't agree with it." Especially when you're giving criticism of poetry; I've had people send me emails along the lines of "Well, that's just your opinion." and nothing else.

If I was going to try and make a fact-based statement about poetry I'd say that a poem has to say something clearly, not necessarily concisely, but the message can't be garbled in a great poem. Something that's easily understood and can be shown or disproved with one great, unclear, garbled poem.

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Old 11-27-2009, 07:12 AM   #18
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Talking

Somethng that's easily understood and can be shown or disproved with one great, unclear, garbled poem.

This is a great sentence. But that is just my opinion. :>
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Old 11-27-2009, 09:20 AM   #19
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Somethng that's easily understood and can be shown or disproved with one great, unclear, garbled poem.

This is a great sentence. But that is just my opinion. :>
Maybe that wasn't clear, I meant my statement of fact should be easily understood and easily disproved if someone could come up with a great poem that's garbled with an unclear message. Aesthetic philosophy is a mess, I don't really want to have anything to do with the objective, or communal experience of art.
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Old 11-27-2009, 12:28 PM   #20
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Billy Collins in a master class once told a group of us that the first line of a poem should be something the reader cannot argue with but must accept. I think it is along the lines of what Bflag is saying in terms of clarity. I think that a poem can shift to greater complexity, but it should always be clear on at least a surface level.

That said, I love finding new layers in a poem on a second read or third read. Noticing technique that was, on the first read, subtle enough to be seamless, or resonances in diction choices--to notice the implications of images. The poem should make sense the first time but should become more interesting rather than less interesting in successive reads. Example: Sylvia Plath's Metaphors poem.
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Old 11-27-2009, 01:57 PM   #21
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Billy Collins in a master class once told a group of us that the first line of a poem should be something the reader cannot argue with but must accept. I think it is along the lines of what Bflag is saying in terms of clarity. I think that a poem can shift to greater complexity, but it should always be clear on at least a surface level.

That said, I love finding new layers in a poem on a second read or third read. Noticing technique that was, on the first read, subtle enough to be seamless, or resonances in diction choices--to notice the implications of images. The poem should make sense the first time but should become more interesting rather than less interesting in successive reads. Example: Sylvia Plath's Metaphors poem.
I think Dylan Thomas, my favorite, is a good example of a simple message told in layers of simple to complex metaphor. He usually doesn't venture that far into the surreal, and he has more clear as day themes in his poetry than most people give him credit for.

"And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill."

Billy Collins is kind of the anti-Dylan Thomas, he's really defending his own poetry with his first line thesis. Both are interested in the common person understanding their poetry, but Dylan wants to challenge the average Joe, seems like Billy just wants to tell them a story make them laugh or cry like a performer on stage. I like many Billy poems, but the first line only has to be great so far as it makes the reader want to continue exploring the poem, sometimes you can only accept the first line after reading the entire poem and everything falls into place.
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Old 11-27-2009, 02:18 PM   #22
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I like this thread
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Old 11-27-2009, 03:07 PM   #23
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I like this thread
Amen to that
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Old 11-27-2009, 04:33 PM   #24
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Thumbs up This thread

Disarming, even elegant,
the simple question spawns
a few splutters dredged
from the inner-mysterious.

While poking about in the dark
sparks begin to take, the splutter
calms to a bright, steady light
of pleasing sensation, of minds
engaged to accumulate, to aggregate,
to craft understanding.

This thread becomes promising,
promising excited insight. Encouraged
we return to this site
and endorphin communion
of the synchronous
mind-driven community
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Old 11-27-2009, 04:37 PM   #25
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tell me.

for you, as an individual, how do you KNOW if a poem is good or not?
I am not so much concerned with rhymes or absurdities (love Edward Lear, though). A good poem is symbolically moving first to me (which can include the form, but not necessarily a formal one), emotionally moving second and lyrically moving third, at least for me.
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