Poetry by Jeff Green


NO!!! (Not poetry at all, thoughts on judging contests)

by cricketjeff on August 3, 2008.  © Jeff Green, All rights reserved

I cannot agree with the premise! Some of your list seem good and universally applicable but none apply universally to all contests, few apply even to a majority. Poetry is not engineering you cannot take 8 parts poetic devices and stir in 2 ounces of brevity and a foot and a half of balance. It is important to consider all these things but they do not make poetry. For any given contest I am judging I set my own criteria. If the contest calls for not more than 100 words, I probably allow 110ish but would lean towards someone who obeyed the rules, however if a truly great poem had 120 it may win. If I asked for poems on mountains Shakespeare might win talking of a hill. So my list of criteria may go

Is it a great poem?
Can I justify it meeting the contest rules in some way?

Now I take all the poems that meet my criteria and judge them against each other.

However you gave a list so let us work through them

adherence to a contest prompt:- clearly this can be important if the contest is set to get poems on a subject it matters, but in other contests the theme is set just as a way of watering the flower of creativity. Before I can rank this in importance I need to know the contest!

vivid imagery;- can be marvellous but must a good poem have vivid imagery? Or indeed any imagery at all? I do not believe it is essential.

clear meaning;- I give you Jabberwocky!!! I think that trumps that quality!

mechanics – grammar, spelling, tense/person agreement, etc.;- NO! can matter a lot but Bill Shakespeare managed to ignore all the rules!

the balance between being obvious and obscure;- need there be a balance? There are perfectly beautiful poems that are exact descriptions of a scene and as obvious as you like and there are poems that are an abstract riot. I cannot possibly rank this item.

brevity;- You mean Paradise lost isn’t a good poem? Haiku are brief, heroic odes can be long, not a quality I can judge by I am afraid

emotional intensity;- Usually helps a poem but again does it have to be there? No.

Whether it breaks/adheres to traditional form (if it’s a form poem) or is a
newly introduced hybrid form well this matters if you are setting a form contest but if a poem sounds better with an acephalic line or with an anapaestic foot creeping in unannounced I say blow the form and go with what sounds best (That is very often the correct form but not always)

freshness (i.e. not-cliché);- we have had this before! If it sounds beautiful who cares that you rhymed June with moon and tune, it is hard to make cliches sound good, but a good enough poet will do it

poetic device;- If they sound good great if they sound bad get rid of them

Now of course you have to judge my efforts!!!