“The best poem is the poem you write yourself”
On this page, PPM’s daunting list of helpful questions – none of us can embrace all in a single poem (scroll down to ‘A poet’s checklist’) plus links to:
- Poet’s Friend - this website’s postal/online advisory service. View Poet’s Friend details.
- The Poetry Foundation in the USA has many (and I mean ‘many’) in-great-depth articles for teachers and students Poetry Foundation – sonnets… winning competitions… you name it…
- The Open University Four half-hour audio programmes+transcripts, part of Writing Poetry course A175. iTunes required.
- A wealth of videos, interviews, writing and performing tips, on old BBC poetry website
Writing Poetry – a poet’s checklist
“Read my poetry to learn a little more about me than I know myself”
by Tony French
Subject of poem
+ Is there an attractive or ingenious unifying idea/conceit?
+ Is there a universal truth – whether a small issue applicable to many, or a grander concept?
+ Is there originality?
+ Is the poem readily accessible?
+ Is the poem believable – does it work at its particular level?
+ Does the poem work at different levels?
+ Is a theme developed?
+ Is imagery consistent, developed and well used?
+ Does the poem explore boundaries?
+ Is the poem emotionally effective?
+ Is the poem intellectually effective?
+ Does the conclusion satisfy the reader – whatever the form i.e. question, summary etc?
+ Would you feel the need to share this poem, or the thoughts it provokes?
+ Is the title supportive – and an intrinsic part of the work?
+ Is there a recognised or interesting original pattern or shape on the page?
+ If in an established format (sonnet etc) is that appropriate – and well executed?
+ Is the first line inviting?
+ Are stanzas used? Are they sympathetic and helpful to the meaning?
+ Do the line-breaks enhance the work, or do some appear arbitrary?
+ Thinking of music, and depending on length etc, is the pace varied and/or interesting?
+ As a reader, are there lines you’ll remember, or would like to learn by heart?
+ Is the poem true to a genre – or does it interestingly break new ground and/or surprise us?
+ The point of view is usually the poet’s own, but if not, is this clear and well executed?
+ Is there a distinct tone (emotive, didactic, fun, etc), which avoids mere self-indulgence?
Rhythm & metre
+ Is the rhythm, which is essential to poetry, pleasing? Does it support the meaning?
+ Is the metre, which helps create the rhythm, consistent – yet with interesting variations?
+ Are the rhythm and metre combined, supportive of the subject – and not dominant?
+ Is any metaphor (perhaps sustained) clear, not self-indulgent, and not strained?
+ Is any simile sufficiently fresh (not overused)- and does it really add to our understanding and pleasure?
+ Is any rhyme which is used helpful?
+ Is there subtle use of rhyme?
+ Is any alliteration/assonance/consonance/onomatopoeia helpful?
+ Is any literary allusion/echo helpful?
+ Is there humour? Or any lighter touch?
+ Is there use of paradox?
+ Is there satire?
+ Are any repetitions helpful?
– Is there marked lack of essential metre?
– Is there tired imagery?
– Are there clumsy similes or metaphors?
– Are there clumsily ordered words?
– Is there inappropriate archaic/’poetic’ language
– Do obscure references hinder accessibility?
– Does the poem lack depth – if it pretends to such…?
– Worse still, is the poet guilty of bathos?