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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Elements of Good Poetry

A New Experience 
posted by Maureen Green

Recently I participated in a workshop run by Jenny Argante; a poetry workshop. During our hands-on-work session, Jenny provided pointers that I believe apply to all writing structure:

      • one’s own voice is the strongest and truest
      • write, rewrite, rework, rework
      • read your work out loud; addition and omission become evident then.

Her suggestion that selected phrases from prose may often be turned into good poetry, really hit home for me. So, motivated by her enthusiasm, and taking note of the seven elements of good poetry writing cited, I was compelled to pen a form into which I  have rarely delved. The result:

Senior Moment

I stop, stare blankly

Wonder why here?

Could it be my

Memory’s deserting me!

“Not,” I say -


Fear spawning. I scurry,

Worry my way

Through corridors,

Mind hot

On the trail

Of hide-and-seek thought

That brought me here

To blankly stare… and,


What do you think? Compare my effort with the seven elements of good poetry listed below.

Seven Elements of Good Poetry.

 Good poems:

·         have shape and a design

·          are rhythmical;  have a metrical beat or musical quality

·          reveal new things (but not necessarily complicated)

·         Are significant, not mindless waffle

·         are intense (concentrate on essentials)

·         are concrete, written about real things in real words

·         are exact; the idea, observation, or experience has been turned into something specific.

 Looking for material to inspire your writing? Try The Tauranga Writers' Website where sections on prose, poetry, creative writing, exercises and issues may be found.

 Maureen Green


  1. All those points are as relevant to prose writing, Maureen. Going through the final, final edit of my latest book I find myself changing words merely because of rhythm. I am however, a little concerned with the 6th element of good poety - write about real things in real words. This would effectively rule out one of my favorite poems, The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. The first lines are:
    'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
    Real words about real things? Hardly!

  2. I like your 'Senior Moment', Maureen, I can relate to it all too well.
    I worry about what Pooh-bah and the Lord High Executioner and his famous list might say.
    'As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I've got a little list — I've got a little list...
    And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist —
    I don't think she'd be missed — I'm sure she'd not be missed!'

    Yes it does have shape and says something significant meeting the elements as you outline...
    But, I agree with Jenny. Most of the poetry I like is nonsense. I like it because its nonsense. So the elements that say 'not mindless waffle' and 'written about real things in real words' is not one of my criteria. Rhythm, yes, storytelling, yes but real?

    Another Lewis Carroll verse oft quoted:
    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    To talk of many things:
    Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
    Of cabbages—and kings—
    And why the sea is boiling hot—
    And whether pigs have wings." (Through the Looking Glass).

    Bah Humbug I say.