Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Topic: Evaluating Poems

Question: How do we evaluate poetry? What are our criteria for judging whether a poem should be published?

Answer: I admit it. This article became a little too complex and technical for me Yet its method of trying to identify the criteria that people use to evaluate poetry is intriguing. What do you value in this poem? Why do you judge that this poem should be included for publication? The article has insights into some of the criteria used by “a group of seven poets, critics, editors and teachers” in a one-day discussion “judging some contemporary U.S. verse.”

Quote: “Although evaluation is at the core of many of the practices associated with poetry—including teaching, editing, selecting, judging, and even writing—and although there have been involved discussions of the assessment of verse… there has been no empirical investigation of the specific values which, one supposes, lie at the heart of such judgments in contemporary American poetry. This study examines how one group of poets valued twelve poems.”

An example of one criterion:

Quote: “Though striking moments tend to promote a willingness to stick with a poem in order to investigate it more—as Dennis states of Hawkey’s poem, ‘there are enough moments in it for me that made it something that I wanted to continue to experience’—the mere presence of these, no matter how powerful, is rarely enough for the discussion participants to value the poem as a whole.”

Comment: I recommend as part of discussions of poems, the question be addressed, “What do you value in the poem you have just read?” Of course contemporary poems, such as those in The New Yorker would be best to use. “Would you publish this poem? Why?” Reading the full article will provide essential background on some of the criteria used by these seven professionals concerned with poetry. RayS.

Title: “How We Value Contemporary Poetry: an Empirical Inquiry.” B Broad and M Theune. College English (November 2010), 113-137.

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