Just as we evaluate quality in a car, a work of art, or a piece of clothing, we also can evaluate quality in poetry. Some poems are great. They last through generations, throughcenturies and speak to the heart of readers. What makes a poem good? What makes a poem bad? Invariably students who place strict quality criteria on just about everything else in their lives willbalk at placing quality criteria on poems. Students want to think that a poem is good just because it is a poem. Not true. Look at the questions below. A writer does not just write a poem for money oreven for fame. A poem is an expression of deepest emotion from the heart and from the soul. The writer write his/her poem for a reason and whatever reason the poet has, it matters more to him/her thananything else in the world at that point. So that brings us to the following questions when we evaluate a poem.
What is the purpose of the poem?
Does the author achieve his/her purpose? Usuallythe more important the purpose is, the better the poem is.
A good poem has:
No excess words
No words that do not contribute to the total meaning.
No inexact words.
The word order isbest for expressing the author's total meaning.
The diction, images, and figures of speech are fresh, not trite.
No clashes between the sound of the poem and its sense or its form and content.Sound and pattern are used to support the poet's meaning.
Organization is the best possible; images and ideas are effectively arranged.
The poem must be in some way a "new" poem; it must exact afresh response.
The poem must not be overly sentimental, indulging in emotion for its own sake or "tear-jerking."
It must not deal too much in generalities.
It must not teach its lesson atthe expense of the poem itself.
It must not sacrifice meaning for rhythm or rhyme.
--Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense (1992)
As an English teacher I probably should not...