What Makes a Good Poem?What features of a poem do you feel make it "good"? 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I like Coleridge's "the best words in the best order."  In longer pieces such as novels and short stories, the writer can be a little less concerned about each word in the piece.  The condensed nature of most poetry places a burden on each word to carry the poet's vision in the most effective way.  This assumes what many have already said: that the content these words are carrying does "something" to the reader.  I think this is what makes so many great poems memorable ... the feeling that I've just read something important said as well as it can be said.

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bwestbrook | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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While it's easy and pat to say that good poetry just makes you feel good, or "speaks to you" etc, etc., I think it's more complicated and interesting than that.  A good poem must accomplish its purpose--whatever that purpose might be.  Noble intent alone cannot redeem a work that doesn't measure high on the scale of accomplishment; otherwise the sentimental and didactic poetry that appears far too often would stand with the world's masterpieces.  It's necessary as well for that purpose to be a significant one.  It must engage our senses and imagination and cause us to think about universal concerns. 

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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Just gotta brag a little here about "Dead Poets Society." The script was written by an alumnus of my school about a former teacher here. Mr. Keating was based on a real person who is a current college professor in New England. No, he wasn't fired nor did any student commit suicide nor is our school quite as rigid as that one. That teacher is a legend! Stories abound.  : )

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Does anyone remember the movie "Dead Poets' Society," where Mr. Keating comes in to his first class and calls the poetry book they're using "excrement"?  I agree with what Amy wrote, as well as what he was trying to get across to those students.  It's not necessarily the verse, the rhyme, the meter, the mechanics of the poem - nor is there a simple formula to follow to determine a poem's worth.  It's what the poem does to each individual who reads it that matters.

Each year I have my Brit Lit students read the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Naming of Cats," as it appeals to me personally.  It is very meaningful to me, and inevitably there is at least one student (sometimes more) who agrees and really gets into it - usually because they're either cat-lovers or animal-lovers.  What I try to stress to everyone is that not every poem that textbooks print is going to strike a chord with them, and that's okay.  It's all about reading a variety of poems to find what speaks to you.

I LOVE that movie SO much.  I agree so mcuh about interpretation of a poem being so very important! :o)

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Good poetry must MOVE the reader.  I've always believed that and always will.  Different poems move different readers, so trying to define what is "good" for all is impossible!

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Does anyone remember the movie "Dead Poets' Society," where Mr. Keating comes in to his first class and calls the poetry book they're using "excrement"?  I agree with what Amy wrote, as well as what he was trying to get across to those students.  It's not necessarily the verse, the rhyme, the meter, the mechanics of the poem - nor is there a simple formula to follow to determine a poem's worth.  It's what the poem does to each individual who reads it that matters.

Each year I have my Brit Lit students read the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Naming of Cats," as it appeals to me personally.  It is very meaningful to me, and inevitably there is at least one student (sometimes more) who agrees and really gets into it - usually because they're either cat-lovers or animal-lovers.  What I try to stress to everyone is that not every poem that textbooks print is going to strike a chord with them, and that's okay.  It's all about reading a variety of poems to find what speaks to you.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Emily Dickinson once said that if it made her feel like the top of her head had been knocked off (or something very similar to that), it was good poetry.

I think that's a decent definition...it should hit home somehow.  Speak to you about the things you hide from everyone else.  Make a connection somewhere deep inside.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Good poetry has to be an honest & authentic communication of a sensitive & sensible mind. Since what is said is integrally connected with how it is said, the poet must be able to make a creative use of language. If it is metrical, metrics should be perfectly coherent with semantics.Good poetry is something truly memorable; it moves the reader immediately and leaves lasting impression. It should not be loud or tendentious, but subtle & emotive. Good poetry is good because of what Keats called 'a fine excess'.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The most important test of good poetry for me is that I should enjoy reading, listening and reciting it. If I do not enjoy a poem it is not good for me. I am not making a judgement in absolute terms. A poem that is not enjoyed by me, may be enjoyed very much by others, and therefore it is good for them,but not for me.

What exactly contributes to my pleasure in a poem there are three things in descending order of importance.

  1. The thoughts expressed
  2. The way these thoughts are expressed.
  3. Rhyme and flow
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symboltalk | eNotes Newbie

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Poetry connects to the deep collective unconscious which responds to the vibrations of sound/sense/image as in dreams , Shelleys' 'awesome and unseen power' 

It invokes the gods - which is why it was found anciently in religious rites.

That's why the 'ordinary language' movement in poetry is completely misconceived.

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