What makes a good poem?
This, of course, is a question that has been answered throughout literary history by far greater minds than mine!
Still, I can try to answer that question for the narrow world of one online journal, VerseWrights.
Robert Frost once wrote that "a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom." While this may sound formulaic, it really isn't. There is, of course, an unlimited way to get from point A to point B, and therein lies the delight of both the writing and the reading of a poem.
There is so much for the poet to take into consideration—and why writing a poem can be a difficult experience for poets who attempt craftsmanship: the rhythm, sounds, form, imagery, figurative language, and so much more, must all (and always) be taken into account, singularly and together, and they must combine to create an effect that in turn creates the experience for the reader.
We don't look for perfection here, because it doesn't exist. But we do look for quality in this regard.
We also have to look at, quite frankly, what does not work—the immediate turn off's, if you will. The greatest offense, by far, is the overuse of abstraction. Abstract words just don't say much, and they are usually an effort to get at meanings that only can be communicated through concrete words. It is the difference between "telling about" something and "showing" something--the difference between "She is lovely" and showing her as being lovely without the editorial comment.
Show us, and don't tell us. And don't tell us what to feel or think. Give us an experience that makes those things happen. Let us feel it (or think it) on our own because you, the poet, have led us there by taking us on a little journey.
A poem takes care and work. A good poem takes great care and harder work. It is frustrating! I think often that the best poets are the ones who are never satisfied.
I guess editors aren't either.
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