After our last discussion about the mistakes in this year’s entries for the poetry contest I judge, I’ve been busily at work, revising and arranging my own poems to enter in a couple of chapbook contests and one book competition. Hopefully, my judging poems by other people has helped me to assess my own poems more objectively, but time, notification of awards (or not!), and acceptance for publication (or not!) will tell.
Meanwhile, here's a list of some remaining flaws. Besides the previously listed character traits, the perfectly imperfect poem:
States the obvious.
Says nothing fresh, insightful, imaginative, interesting, or new.
Relies on clichés that delighted readers a century or ten ago.
Includes archaic words no longer in general use.
Sounds like a private poem that would not mean anything to anyone, much less total strangers. Indeed, the private poem does not seem to be aware that readers even exist.
Uses repetition ineffectively, emphasizing thoughts or phrases that do not warrant headlines or neon lights.
Goes on and on, often repeating what’s been said and said.
Or compresses too tightly, omitting articles and other business words that help people to communicate and make sense.
Bores readers with text as flat as pressed flower in a book.
Makes imprecise statements or assumptions that are not true or emotional statements that do not ring true.
Gives advice no one asked for or wanted to receive.
Has no sense of humor, grammar, mystery, or musicality.
Bashes men. Puts down women. Shows big signs of bigotry.
Uses crude or vulgar language that adds nothing but bad taste.
Gets locked into a rhyme pattern that forces the use of poor syntax or that emphasizes words like “of” which just cannot carry well the weight of rhyme.
Tries to be imaginative yet shows no sign of research or the true powers of observation that every poet truly has.
Every poet also has at least one poem with at least one of the problems above, but rejoice! Once you identify a problem, the solution becomes clear. If not, get professional help from The Poetry Editor http://www.thepoetryeditor.com .