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If the poet’s intentions are clear regarding the subgenre of poem he/she is trying to write (haiku, sonnet, rhymed couplets, etc.), the critic can discuss whether the poet succeeded or failed in conforming to the “rules” of the subgenre—number of lines, syllables, subject division, etc. (Blank verse, too, has its unspoken rules—Whitman, for example, lists his observations very carefully and “satisfyingly.”) This is the surface level of critical appreciation. More difficult and more subjective is an analysis of the imagery, the metaphors, the “flow” of words—in other words, the success of the poem’s “texture.” Here, the word “appreciation” really comes forward—to what degree does the reader “appreciate” the subtle choices of language—the connotations of the words chosen, the subtle “echoes” of sound and theme, the perfect phrasing of an idea? In the final analysis, the most important aspect of the poem is its “capture” of the abstract and otherwise ineffable truth in the poem’s theme—its success at embracing a universal truth.
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