What Makes a Good Poem?

Hello, all!

Instead of having a poem for you today, I thought that I would use this space to discuss what I believe are the techniques, the images, the overall aspects which make a poem a pleasure to read and write about. Having written poetry seriously for quite some time now, I have compiled a *brief* list to illustrate my point. I apologize if you were expecting a poem today- super sorry! I promise you that there will be a poem for you next Wednesday. πŸ™‚

Before I begin, I just want to reiterate that these points that I will be making are solely my own personal beliefs. Some poets may not agree with them when it comes toΒ “good poetry.” Especially seasoned writers who have much more experience than I do. And that’s perfectly fine; feel free to comment on just what makes poems good for you. Perhaps we can make this a place for us aspiring (or experienced) poets to grow, foster, and hone in on our own poetic works. Who knows?

Without further ado, here they are:

  • Aesthetics– I admit, this term is rather vague; what do I mean by it? When I say the word “aesthetic,” I am explaining the physicality, the artistry of the words on the page. Besides the language, I believe that the way it is formatted on paper is important when readers close-read and come to terms with the poem’s message. For instance, the way lines are broken up: are some indented, enjambed, isolated, scattered, or grouped? And to what effect? How do you want the readers to not only read, but also see the way that the poem is presented? These are questions that I grapple with as I write my pieces; currently, I am interested in symmetrical aesthetics– meaning, I like to have my stanzas/lines exactly the same (i.e. five lines to a stanza all the way). Granted, there will be exceptions, but for the most part, I am focusing on achieving balance in my works.
  • Describers/adjectives– Let me preface this point by saying that there is such a thing as having too many adjectives: it becomes excessive, to the point of suffocating the poem (figuratively, of course). It takes away from the essence of the poem’s message, and makes it seem flowery, pretentious, and/or lacking in substance (which may or may not be true). But to use too little or none at all, I think, deprives the poem: metaphorically speaking (dang, getting into metaphors in a post!), I see describers/adjectives as food to be fed to the poem, in order to nourish it and give it richness. Take the instance of the phrase “she sits on the steps, waiting for her friend:” by modifying and saying “she sits-unmoved-on the dusty steps, impatiently waiting for her friend.” See what I did there? Essentially, you breathe life into your phrases when you add just an extra word or two. For me, I am especially picky when it comes to choosing the perfect adjective/describers to enhance the skeleton of the poem, providing it the meat and skin for it to come to life.
  • Attention to sound– Besides the language, a poem needs to sound good. There needs to be a rhythm, a melody, almost like music, which emanates from the words. That you can almost sing it, and taste its sonorous beauty. Sounds superfluous, I know, but I love a poem that pays attention to these kind of techniques: alliteration, assonance, near-rhymes, and such. It is the lyricism that draws me in, and takes my breath away. But of course, like with adjectives, moderation is key: too much of alliteration and/or assonance can get too indulgent, and so you need to find a middle ground for that.

So, what is good poetry to you? I would be curious to know what you all think. πŸ™‚

– The Finicky Cynic


One thought on “What Makes a Good Poem?

  1. Pingback: Things That Make Me Happy… – The Finicky Cynic

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