on good poems
I have this strange obsession with collecting every quotation by writers I admire regarding “the art of writing,” advice, hot takes, etc. etc. etc.
It’s difficult—for me, at least—to define what a “good” poem is. What are the necessary qualities of a “good” poem? How much of “good” poetry is defined by music? By imagery? By subject matter?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do appreciate the thoughts of more established poets who have very clear ideas about what makes a poem powerful.
"Good poetry can and should give pleasure before it’s understood…give the reader something in terms of language, imagery, rhythm, etc., to make the poem a sensual experience."
"I love language because when it succeeds, for me, it doesn’t just tell me something. It enacts something. It creates something. And it goes both ways. Sometimes it’s violent. Sometimes it hurts you. And sometimes it saves you."
"The duty of literature is to dig to the bottom."
"Poems are, or should be, experiences in themselves, and not just accounts of or commentaries on experience."
“The music works. Each syllable leads to the next. The pacing compels me. The sound flows in one gesture, one choreography. Sometimes, rarely, the words become windows, filled with light.”
"In order to record a tale, something must always be lost. Some things must be left unsaid and disguised. The art of storytelling […] is all about where and how to leave the voids."
"Those who define or evaluate a poem in terms of its content or subject matter are making a serious category mistake. Poems are utterances, but they are first and foremost aesthetic artifacts, events and occasions in language."
"The poem carries love and terror, or it carries nothing."
That’s all for tonight. As always, if you have any questions for me, I’ll keep my eye out for them on the Q&A Forum.