Earlier this weekend one of my friends showed me some of the poetry she enjoys. As we were talking about it she said something along the lines of “I like this poet but I don’t think he writes the kind of poetry you like”. This made me stop and think. Although I had never realized it before, I am indeed a person with a certain taste in poetry. This makes me very happy: I am the kind of person who has read enough poetry to know which styles she enjoys, how cool is that?!
So let’s get right to it:
- I enjoy poetry with several layers, and find it important that it has hidden depth. However, at the same time I find it important that the poem immediately catches my attention in some way when I first read it. This can be by revealing one of its meanings up front or with a particularly well found phrase, as long as there is something. If there is no incentive from the poem itself, I’m not going to read it again.
- Upon re-reading the poem a few more times I usually unravel more of its meaning(s) myself but, diligent English student that I am, I don’t mind doing some research either. I find it important that at least some of the poem speaks to me personally, but I also value other people’s readings as part of the ‘experience’.
- The poem has to appeal not only to my mind but also to my eardrums. I think I have quite a ‘classic’ idea of what makes a poem sound nice: ingenious rhymes, adept alliterations, effective repetitions or iambic pentameter. I also appreciate it when the line breaks show the speaker’s intonation, but only in so far as that it’s functional or meaningful. I don’t like fridge-poetry where every other word starts on a new line.
- Lastly, the poem has to ‘build up’ to something. For me, it’s important that a poem isn’t just a collection of clever lines, but also conveys a thought or idea. Therefore, it should contain a climax that rounds off the poem neatly. Hardly anything is as disappointing as a poem that starts well but then trails off at the end without delivering. Like a good joke, a poem needs a punchline!
Like any taste, my ideas of what makes a good poem are ever changing and developing. Only one exception has to come round for me to start questioning my little list again and this will probably happen sooner rather than later :).
At the moment, my favourite poets include Wallace Stevens, Dorothy Parker, Carol Ann Duffy and Robert Frost.
Moreover, I would like to add that even though a certain poem may not speak to me, this doesn’t mean that I deem it a bad poem. Just like with novels, I can appreciate a poem for the literary movement it embodies, the context it was written in or what it has meant to other people, without enjoying it for myself.
What do you think? Do you agree with my requirements (if so we probably have the same taste – please link one of your favourite poems below!)? Is there anything you would add? I studied many poems during my degree but we hardly ever discussed anything like developing a personal taste, so I’m very interested in hearing about your favourites.