What Makes a “Good” Poem

The other day, after posting my winners of the End of Summer Poetry Contest, I was speaking with another blogger who asked me,

“What makes a poem good?”

Only five words long, five simple words in fact, and yet this is an extremely, insanely complex question according to most poetry “experts.” Two summers ago, I took a poetry-focused graduate college class. During this course, I was assigned and read several articles on what makes “good poetry.” These articles dealt with questions such as:

  • Should poetry be a specific form?
  • Should it rhyme?
  • Should it have certain syllables per line?
  • Should it have a certain amount of lines or stanzas?
  • Is free verse (perhaps the most popular form of poetry) a form of poetry at all?

There are literally hundreds of thousands of questions and opinions circling poetry, particularly on what makes quality poetry. Just type in “What makes poetry good?” and before you know it, you will be sucked down the rabbit hole.

So, before you fall down too deep into that vortex of confusing judgments, I’m going to offer my opinion and break it down into five simple statements:

Good Poetry:

  1. Can be in any form! Every form was invented and new forms can still be invented by involving old forms.
  2. Should use creative (but not obnoxious) diction. Figurative Language is fun!
  3. Should emotionally appeal or relate to the reader.
  4. Can captivate your readers with a story or imagery
  5. Should “Mic Drop” last line; leave your reader with something memorable!

Now, I realize that my opinion is just one of many, so take it or leave it but remember that poetry is always evolving.

What do you think of my five rules?

What would you add or take away from my list?

Happy Writing Everyone!


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50 thoughts on “What Makes a “Good” Poem”

  1. I agree with your five points. There are numerous forms of poetry and seems more forms are created frequently. My feelings about poetry – “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words” Robert Frost

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with number 5 for sure. The last line is the line that stands out. Also I feel like when you write, you have to try and not to be to abstract. Use simile and metaphors to explain how happy you are but not like this
    “Happy as a snowman”

    but more like this
    The temperature drops faster than a roller coaster at six flags
    but on my face, you’ll seek many smiles and laughs
    winter is the season my my choosing
    my smile stretches to the bottoms of my ears
    from making snow mans.
    Finally winter is here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with your statements. I think you can ask the question of ten different writers/poets, and return with a mountain of responses. The challenge with the fifth point is that poetry is highly subjective. What people experience is based on their perception and environmental influencers. I’ve written poems where it drained me of my emotions, and some will connect, while others do not. I find this is especially the case with subject matter like divorce or death. I’ve also written poetry where I think I’ve “dropped the mic” in the conclusion, but most of the comments highlight the opening line. Some of my favorite poetry is abstract, where the poet allowed me to layer my own ideas, using their message as a foundation, and draw my own conclusion.

    In my mind, good poetry…
    * employees a healthy amount of poetic devices
    * consciously avoids weak words
    * minimal to no grammatical mistakes
    * makes me feel something, anything, even if it’s anger
    * has some sense of purpose/meaning
    * has a beginning, middle, end
    * bonus if the poem triggers me to be inspired enough to write my own poem

    I could probably go on forever, but that’s my two++++cents. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian, you are so right! Writing is subjective, in every form, and what appeals to some, might not appeal to most. That is a solid list of attributes though. I especially love your fourth point: makes me feel something, anything!

      Thank you for sharing your two cents! It’s a lot more fun when I get to converse.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with your five points. Your number 2 is open for discussion, depending on your meaning of creative diction, obnoxious and figurative language. We all have our own feeling on what good poetry is, and I can’t seem to call poetry that uses words I can’t understand or have to look up the meaning as good. You know how I like to keep things simple, beautiful, heart warming, heart wrenching, from the heart in good old plain language and filled with words and phrases that create images in my mind that I can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. What is good to me may not be good to anyone else. It’s all a matter of perception. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walt, I so understand what you mean! Sometimes, it feels like someone is spitting out a thesaurus instead of writing poetry. Writing is definitely open to interpretation and slave to subjectivity but I’m with you, I want to be able to understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. These are five good points. What I would add is that I believe poetry usually says in fewer words what it takes prose to express. Poetry leaves more to the readers’ imaginations. And, for me, good poetry has a lot packed into that space between the lines. That’s one of the reasons there is so much room for individual interpretation.

    Liked by 1 person

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