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What Makes a Good Poem

Guest Author - Sheena Esther Janakie

Poetry is a form of literature that many enjoy. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines poetry as “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm”. In other words, poetry is a collection of thoughts, put together in such a way that it pleases and gives joy to the reader and evokes certain emotions in him/her that normal prose cannot evoke. It is a rendering of an emotion - beautifully and aesthetically.

Though this might be the accepted definition of poetry, some people like to color outside the box. As in any other genre there are good as well as bad poems. So the question that needs to be answered is this – what makes a good poem? To answer this question, one must first understand that poetry, more than any other literary form, is highly subjective. So what is a good poem to one person may not be a good poem to another. But on the whole, one can broadly classify most poems as either good or bad.

Good poems: most good poems are pleasing to read, though the emotions they portray may not be all joy and goodness. There is a certain rhythm to it that causes our senses to respond to the poem. Many poems also use rhyme as a very effective tool, but there are poems nowadays that are breaking free from the norms of rhyme. The human mind, from time immemorial, has responded favorably to rhyme. It is possible that all of us have an in-built system of rhyme and rhythm in us that helps us in appreciating it when we see it in verse. But rhyme is not criteria enough to classify a poem as “good”.

For a poem to be good there is also the need for it to have some sense. A good poem conveys to the reader the emotion in the poet’s mind. It tells the reader “something”, be it a poet’s pleasure, or the narration of an event, or his displeasure or the plethora of other emotions any human being feels.

A poem also achieves the most when a reader is able to connect with the thought and emotion in the poem. It is not necessary for the reader to have had the same experience. The true power of a good poem is in its ability to make the reader feel that he/she is experiencing first-hand, what the poet is talking about.

Bad poems: bad poems are usually ones that have no underlying sense or logic. Such poems are aesthetically unappealing and do not convey anything of value to the reader. Such poems are of no use to anyone.

Poems sometimes can also be written badly while still having something of value to impart. That, unfortunately, may be the poet's lack of creativity.

A good poem therefore is one that has an aesthetic appeal and has the power to give its reader a new and enriching experience. It is the telling of mundane and everyday things in language more beautiful than prose. It can be, in one phrase, termed as “adorned prose”.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Sheena Esther Janakie. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sheena Esther Janakie. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Karena Andrusyshyn for details.

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