The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD – What Makes for a Good Poem?


One of our Twitter followers, Jose Alba, asked us this question yesterday, and I wanted to post my response on the site. I work hard with my students to get them to understand that when it comes to poetry, they just really need to say what they want to say, and not hide behind obtuse metaphors.

When I got to Pacific University, I made the same mistake as many other young “poets,” and felt like I knew everything. I even had a “book” of poems called Artificial Grey, that I had typed up, and had spiral bound. I think I made 10 copies of it to give to my family and friends. I also thought it would be a great idea to give it to my poetry advisor, Professor Walls. I felt like he should know how fantastic I was. He gave me a faint smile (one that I give my high school students when they now hand me their books), and gladly accepted my work. Instead of just throwing it away, he went through each poem in the book – I think there were close to 200 – and edited them all.

He never gave me any guff about it, and instead, worked hard to let me see exactly what I needed to do in order to better my writing. I had a class with Professor Walls every semester of college, and I owe him quite a bit when it comes to helping me figure out my style of writing – with poetry, fiction, and editorials. It’s a professor like that who is needed for young poets – young anything really.

So, I ask you the same question we were asked:

What makes for a good poem?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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