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What makes Good Poetry

by Richard Pettinger

1. A good poem must be well written with a concise and accurate use of language. The great advantage of poetry is that it can encapsulate ideas in the minimum of words. This is one of the main distinguishing features of poetry as compared to prose.

2. A good poem should be able to lift the reader out of the ordinary and give glimpses of a more illumining reality.

“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.

- W.Blake.

Here the immortal Blake uses the most basic of items a small grain of sand to conjure most powerfully visions of eternity. These lines are so powerful because they leave to so much to the imagination of the reader.

3. A mantric quality of language. Prose seeks to explain, poetry merely states. Good poetry is not an argument but convinces the reader through its own power.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”


4. A good poem should engage the heart of the reader it should be more than mere intellectual cleverness.

“That love is all there is; all we know of love”

- Emily Dickinson

5. Good poetry can offer hope from seemingly painful experience. Many great poets deal with our fear of death there poetry offers an alternative view to the pessimism that can pervade man.

“Because I could not stop for death He kindly stopped for me- The carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.

Emily Dickinson wrote frequently on the theme of death. She does not offer certainties but ambiguously points to immortality. To a large extent the reader can make up his own mind. This is another good quality of a poem it engages the reader to think for himself

Poetry often takes its inspiration from nature. Nature is all around but a poet is able to capture its essence in the written word. This brings us a new appreciation for the wonders of nature.

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

- W.Wordsworth

6. Poetry from the heart. Good poetry can never be faked. There is a saying that a “poet is born not made” Whether this is true or not writing poetry is not like learning to write by rote.

7. Good poetry is poetry that we can feel an identification with. Whether it is a rhyming sonnet of Shakespeare or a simple statement of W.Carlos Williams we feel in very good poetry that it articulates our own inner feeling. There does not seem a separation between poet and reader. The reader himself can feel a oneness with the poet. In this poem Sri Chinmoy identifies with struggling humanity and at the same time offers a Seers vision of a better future.

“I cry aloud, but all in vain; I helpless, the earth unkind What soul of might can share my pain? Death-dart alone I find.”

… “But hark! I hear Thy golden Flute, Its notes bring the Summit down. Now safe am I, O Absolute! Gone death, gone night's stark frown!”

- From the Golden Flute by Sri Chinmoy

From: Short A collection of poems and poetry from around the world

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