NO!!! (Not poetry at all, thoughts on judging contests)
by cricketjeff on August 3, 2008. © Jeff Green, All rights reserved
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!!!