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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Things by which you judge a poem

A few days ago, when I was trying to speak about psychoanalysis and writing, the topic moved towards art, and what makes it greater or lesser, and if there was a scientific basis on which one could arrive at such conclusions. Like a typical American academician, as my professor claimed, I deigned that I had no exacting basis on which to say that one could determine something as good or bad poetry since I had only been in fiction workshops at Columbia. A few days later, however, I realized that as the assistant poetry editor, it was my responsibility to read slush that came in to the Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and determine if it was worthy of a second glance by a senior editor. Following this, I did arrive at some conclusions as to decipher whether a poem was written well, and was consequently, a piece of good art or not. Here, in short, are my conclusions.

1. Does the poem hold my attention till the last verse whilst I'm reading hundreds of poems along side it? Have I already lost track of what is happening in the poem in the second line?

2. Is the poem clear? We think that the matter of clarity applies only to prose but its a valid question with poetry as well. A poem can find many ways to be unclear. It can have too many characters or be filled with irrelevant details which don't contribute to the core of the poem.

4. The most common, and sometimes, distressing aspect of a poem are line breaks that don't make sense logically or poetically. Form and Content have to synchronize with even greater ease in a poem than in prose. While one can't break a line whenever one wants to, simply to bestow the poem with a rhythmic quality, it is also not aesthetically justified if the poem doesn't present itself as aesthetically appealing. To achieve poetic justice is a difficult and rewarding route, and requires reworking at an idea until one feels it can't be said any better.

5. What is the language of a poem? As someone who has worked through different stages of one's own poetry without formal training, I can understand, to some extent, how much work has gone into a poem. I can understand what level they're writing from, and if they have a clear vision, and if that vision is lost in translation, or if it isn't there in the first place to begin with.Is the poem trying to tell me a story or convey emotion? Is it attempting to get at something larger; perhaps some universal meaning or logic that I wasn't previously aware of and am now enlightened of? Is it stating something deep within me that I didn't know how to express?

6. Does the poem create magic for me when I read it for the first time? Does it make me feel like this could have been written no other way? One can argue that this is subjective, but I'd like to differ. There are cases when one can sit with works by great poets: Frost, Hughes, Neruda, and can then discuss if they create magic for each individual person or not, but I know when I've written a bad poem.


Anil Pinto said...

Thank you, Kanasu.

On-site IT training said...

Is it necessary that words in a poem should rhyme?