Well, here’s a new twist on an old favorite… and as with most things, it begins with a story:
Y’know, usually when you tell someone you’re a poet they get that deer-in-the-headlights look in their eye and begin to back away slowly. But every now and then the person you’re talking to is really excited to have met a poet in the flesh, and they want to talk poetry with you. Generally, I love it when this happens, as it did for me last week. I had a lovely conversation with a man about the age of my parents about what poetry is good for, and why it’s important, and why it’s not as mainstream as it was, say, in ancient Greece.
But then came the challenge. This man asked me to compile a set of twenty poems for him:
- 10 poems that I consider to be really good, and the reasons why; and,
- 10 poems that I consider to be, well, bad, and the reasons why
In the name of poetry, I took up the gauntlet. I will have no trouble coming up with ten good poems and my reasons why I think they’re good. The second bit of the challenge feels harder to me, and here’s where you come in.
I want you to send me a published poem by a known poet (I’m not going to say famous or even well-known, but let’s say it’s someone who, in a group of 50 poets, at least a handful would be familiar with the poet’s work) that you think is just not that great, or even bad.
With the poem, send a few sentences about why you think the poem is just not that great or even bad. Leave personal preference out of it. Think, instead, of elements of craft such as (but not limited to):
- narrative (if any)
- figurative language
- rhetorical integrity
- poetic tradition
- what’s at stake/complexity
Don’t feel like you have to write a thesis — a sentence or two is fine. Send your “bad” poem with your reasoning to me at mollycspencer (at) gmail (dot) com. Anyone who does so by next Friday, February 14 will be entered in a giveaway for
- a copy of Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson, OR
- a poetry collection of your choosing that costs $15 or less.
I hereby pledge that you will not be outed — that your labeling of a poem as “bad” shall not be revealed to the universe (unless you’d like it to be). Please spread the word amongst your poetry folk. I think this could be really fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes in over the proverbial transom.