I’ve been wanting to write a post about poetry for a very long time.
In my early teens, I filled notebook upon notebook with the most awful verses. Of course, like any other angst-filled and self-indulgent teenager, I thought they were rather good.
During my university studies I fell in love with a choice few poets, although I stopped writing my own poems like I had in my younger days.
Now, nearly ten years after finishing university, I rarely even read poetry.
To be honest, because it’s so subjective, I think I only really enjoy poetry when I’m studying it. It’s difficult for me to say what makes a poem good or bad without delving into a number of areas.
Plus, I can now fully admit that I’m no poet. No sir.
However, the following are my personal criteria for enjoying a poem:
- Rhythm. When I read it aloud, I want to hear the rhythm the way you would hear the rhythm of a song.
- Word choice. Shouldn’t be over-wrought, but really powerful, evocative word choice makes a huge difference.
- Imagery. I want to see vivid images created by the words.
- Layered meaning. The poem should make sense on more than one level. Context often contributes to layered meaning.
- Personal connection. The verse should make you think about yourself or the world around you in a new way.
Poems I Will Always Love
Most of us writers have a handful of poems that have made a difference in our lives, if only because they are forever emblazoned in our memories.
The following are poems I studied at the university level, and which have meant a lot to me through the years:
- Batter my heart, three person’d God… by John Donne. Favourite line: “…for I/Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free/Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.” The final lines of this spiritual sonnet hold a thought-provoking paradox about Man’s relationship with God.
- Easter 1916, by William Butler Yeats. Favourite line: “All is changed, changed utterly:/A terrible beauty is born.” This one has a lot of social/historical/political context behind it. I really love the reflective and ominous tone.
- The Windhover, by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Favourite line: “…blue-bleak embers, ah my dear/Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.” Hopkins’ poem has a fascinating rhythm, and an immediacy that makes you want to keep reading. The imagery is also amazing.
- Neutral Tones, by Thomas Hardy. Favourite line: “A pond edged with grayish leaves.” Hardy really captures the essence of a lost relationship here. I’d be willing to bet most people can identify with these verses.
- You Fit Into Me, by Margaret Atwood. Favourite line: “…a fish hook/an open eye.” I love the simplicity of this 4-line poem. Short, yet so powerful. It really makes you think about how much can be said in just a few words.
If you don’t already know these, I highly recommend you read them.
Do you write poetry? What do you think makes a poem good or bad?
What are your personal favourites, and why?