What are the key things to make a poem sound professional and to receive a great mark? I need to know what makes a good poem. Everyone else seems to always write such successful and beautiful poems in my class. My poems are not bad, but I just need to know what would make them really stand out. Need this to get high marks in school. Thanks for all the help.

Expert Answers

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Here is a website at which you can read e.e.cummings "Advice to a Poet":


In this essay Cummings explains much of the advice given above.  He encourages people to truly feel.  Then, of course, the expression of this genuine feeling MUST be fresh and original.  One whose poetry is passionate and original is Dylan Thomas, a poet who employs imagery in creative ways. His imagery conveys passion and a certain spirituality, as well. Thus, the use of poetic devices such as imagery is effective in creating worthy poems.

A poem usually has a central metaphor that sets up the theme as all the tensions point to that metaphor.  Reading professional poets will greatly assist you in employing this "central metaphor" as you examine how they composed their poems with central metaphors and the tensions that these metaphors create.

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Be sure you adhere to all of the rules of the assignment – rhymed verse?  Length?  Subject matter? Etc.  But, in the abstract, your poem should be “concentrated word magic.”  Concentrated means efficient, with every word doing a job, offering an image, furthering a theme, or providing a rhythm (example:  “on those occasions when I think of my eventual demise” vs. “When I have fears that I may cease to be” In this second clause, each word provides a cadence -- here, iambic pentameter) Word means taking advantage of every linguistic subtlety available to you – connotation (prostitute vs. whore vs. lady of the night), sound (murmur is a perfect word – it “sounds” like its meaning), ambiguity (“Oh, that the everlasting had not fixed his canons ’gainst self-slaughter”), etc.  Magic means that the combination of all the elements makes something greater than the parts, and that greater “something” is beyond the normal or predictable.  To make the poem outstanding, you must pay attention to every detail, and to every choice available to you, and to the complexity and honesty of your theme.  Finally, you must not censure your imagination – dare to make unique choices.

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