What Makes a Poem Good?

"Good poems tend to incorporate some story, some cadence or shadow of story... You could, without much trouble, commit these poems to memory and have them by heart, like a cello in your head, a portable beauty to steady you and ward off despair." 
Today I'm thinking about how thankful I am for words and that feeling that you get when you read something that feels so right, so accurate that it taps into your innermost being. I've been rereading Garrison Keillor's Good Poems, and I finally read the introduction. He had some beautiful and amusing ideas about what makes a poem good, but I love this point in particular.

It is this concept that has motivated me to paint and produce artwork, and now share it with others. I am deeply interested in the steadying effect that art and poetry have on human nature, the way that these things color my world, bring it to life when everything feels grey and desolate. 

This week I'm swapping guest poems with another blogger, an exercise meant to open the discussion about the process of writing poetry, and using language to tap into the deepest parts of ourselves. Stay tuned. 


Stephanie S. Smith said...

I love that quote and I love your interpretation of it even more. Exactly so. Turn of phrases sometimes just strike a chord in us we never knew we had, and then we find it's just right. You're a wordsmith and a painter to boot! 

TGL said...

That book contains some poems that I love. 

Ray A. Harvey said...

What makes a poem good?

Well, the authentic voice, for one, and density of expression, verbal-technical virtuosity. This is a complicated subject, and one must, I think, first begin by distinguishing between poems and poetry, which are not synonymous.

Scansion, prosody, metric -- these all matter.

Poetry is concentrated speech. It's stylized language -- and it's easy to over-stylize, an error one sees in tyro and apprentice alike. It is only the journeyman poet whose language sounds natural.

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