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What is Good Poetry? What Makes Good Poetry?


First, What is Poetry?

Poetry is a careful, inventive, or creative consideration of words written in order to convey some idea as a literary composition. Usually, but not always, the words written are designed to evoke emotion. Poetry can manifest itself as a two-word phrase or a one thousand-page book.

A PoetrySoup definition. See also: What is Poetry?, Rhyme in Poetry, The Poetics of Aristotle, Meter and Foot in Poetry, History of Poetry, How to Write Poetry, Cliches in Poetry.

What is Good Poetry or What Makes Good Poetry?

Well, I may be opening a can of worms,… oh!…forgive me…too trite. Let me start again. Well, I may segregate virgin wisdom by saying this…hmm…not bad…“breach Watergate’s doors”…I have not heard that before…Anyway, defining “good poetry” has always been problematic and debatable. I could write a novel...wait, there I go again...I could tile the ocean floors on this topic; however, I believe a bulleted list is more serviceable. While meaningful poetry is in the eye of the beholder, the below list provides some basic principles of poetry.

Poetic Principles

  • There is no formula. There is no prescribed guideline for the creation of poetry, only the inspiring models of existing poems.
  • Be a critic and reader of poetry.
  • There's nothing wrong with rhyming, however if you rhyme the words “love you” and “blue” you will be immediately expelled to the Poetic Catacombs of Disregard.
  • Avoid pedestrian phrases. Saying "I love you more than words can express," is neither unique nor is it your own.
  • Use fresh imagery. Show the reader something in such a way, as he or she has not considered before. To say, "my heart withered like a dying rose," offers nothing new.
  • Consider poetic presentation. No words should loiter extraneously. No punctuation intrudes pointlessly.
  • Consider the measured arrangement of your words: the meter, rhythm, flow, vibe, beat, or pulse.
  • Use the correct word/phrase. Enhance your vocabulary. A good vocabulary, gained through reading good poetry, prose, dictionary, and Synonym Finder enhances poetic expression. (Personally, I love archaic words)
  • Write to be unraveled. Write in language that uses images, ironies, metaphors and analogies. Write in language meant to be unraveled.
  • Don't ignore traditional poetic forms: Ballad, Haiku, and Couplet, etc.
  • Emotion is not enough. Writing down raw emotions, simply because they are genuine, does not qualify them as "good" poetry. Oscar Wilde put it best when he said, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." Conversely, all good poetry springs from genuine feeling. So, write with emotion AND in a language that uses metaphors, ironies, and analogies.
  • Write to be funny. Poetry does not have to be serious or emotional.
  • Good poetry makes you feel something. It will give you goose bumps, make you cry, chuckle, or put in high spirits.
  • Edit, proof, and revise your poem. Perform the basics like spell and grammar check - if poetic liberties are not taken. Few artists are ever satisfied with their work. Never feel so attached to your own words that they are above revision. Allow it to grow.
  • Write for others, not just yourself.
  • Write about anything…anything, because ultimately people have different tastes and meaningful poetry is in the eye of the beholder!

See also: How to Write a Poem - 10 Steps to Writing Great Poetry

Book: Reflection on the Important Things