What makes a good poem? Read on!

Robert Sullivan: 2023 Open Junior Judge

Well, I think freshness of approach and diction always helps. Making it new, the old dictum from Ezra Pound, isn’t about making the subject of poetry new, but more the way the poem is said and presented. The right words in the right order are those words that spring from your own speech, your own voice as a writer, and that bring your strengths as a speaker using the language you use at home rather than an idea of how a poet or a poem should sound ‘poetic.’ Avoid poetic inversions and avoid end-rhymes that do not have phrases before them already using half-rhyme or internal rhyme. This is to be avoided as it is difficult to sound new using the patterns of the past, at least within Western poetry. 

Write from your heart and convince us that you feel what you are saying in the poem. I will be convinced if you show us rather than tell us about a situation that draws on an emotion. If the emotion is beauty, avoid the words beautiful and beauty. Show us what makes the wind funnelling through the sea cave an attractive thing to write about. Give us the shoes splashing into the rising tide as the foreshore disappears as you run toward the cave, hoping to make it before the spring tide reaches its height. Express this through action. Use verbs and fewer adjectives and adverbs. You’ve got this in you, now bring it out to the page. 

Use your culture, your gender, your world, your capabilities, to show us the subjects of your poems. Place people in your poem and you will have instant emotion. Only emotion endures. 

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