So, you finished your “poem” in whatever genre of poetry you are writing, and you turn it in and proudly think, ‘There is no way any teacher can grade me down after I poured my heart and soul onto the page!” And you know, I do have a hard time deducting points from poetry. I know how hard it is to write good poetry that works for other people as much as it works for the poet itself (and yes, a published poet, after abandoning a poem to posterity, is an “it”) so I tread that fine line between encouragement and helpful prodding.
My solution is twofold: one, I ask you to write a metacognition that explores what you are trying to accomplish in the poem and how you do this. Second, I beg, plead and cajole you into going back to the poem like a wall builder goes back to a stonewall to see where the gaps are too large or the stones too small to support something as timeless as a wall. As poets, (unlike with true wall builders) there are plenty of stones laying around from which to find a better stone to build a better wall.
For those of you who hate my metaphors, this means to relook at every line and rethink every phrase and reexamine every word; otherwise, you have no right to call yourself a poet. A
In practical terms, this means to look at how your words power the poem. Are you simply trying to convey an idea or thought, or are you manipulating the actual words and lines to create an effect in a reader? Are you employing anything from the long list of poetic terms and rhetorical techniques that have proven themselves for, in some cases, thousands of years? Are you creating phrases—the literary equivalent of riffs and chords and bass runs in music—in ways you have never heard or seen before?
In short, do you give a damn?
If you do, do it.
If you don’t, it won’t.