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Full Version: Basic Rubric for Judging Poetry
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This is not a definitive guide, just something I've devised over the years and found to work. Using the reverse weight to that of a debate:

Method: The way the work is presented. Structure and language especially.
Manner: How it's presented. Imagery, sonics, metaphor.
Matter: WHAT is being said, the argument/examples/information


Method: Does the form of the poem support the content?
This is generally more rigid for structured poetry than freeverse. For example, if someone writes in meter there are standard measures to decide whether it's been done properly. Similarly with cinquains, rictameters and other set forms. There's no such requirement for free verse. For either, though:

-- Look at line breaks, line lengths and punctuation. Are these carefully placed or arbitrary? Do they provide emphasis? Do they contribute to mood?

-- Is the language of the poem suitable? Does the tone convey the appropriate mood? Look at things like vernacular, archaisms, scientific discourse. Do these "mesh"? If not, does the language choice provide contrast/juxtapositions/irony or is it simply "wrong"?

-- Does the poem appear fluid or does it seem forced? Is the language stilted and awkward? Do inversions of syntax and other grammatical oddities contribute to the piece or detract from it? Rhyme will come into this as well -- any rhymes should seem natural and not overstated or obvious.

Manner: How "poetic" is the poem?

-- Is the phrasing interesting and original?

-- Are all metaphors etc clearly drawn and continued, or are they seemingly random and overblown?

-- Does the imagery/symbolism make sense or does it seem too personal/closed?

-- Do individual sounds/words enhance the poem? For example, lyric poetry is better served with softer, rounder sounds and sibilants. Battle poems -- hard sharp sounds. Consider how the sounds contribute to the speed of the poem. This ties in closely with the method but also very strongly supports the "imagery" side.

Matter: What is being said?

-- Is the topic of the poem interesting? Bearing in mind that any topic may be interesting or dull depending on the way it's presented -- so, is the poet finding that required hook?

-- Is it logically presented? This will obviously not come into play in certain kinds of poetry (surrealism defies logic deliberately, for example). Further to this, though, consider whether the poem keep the reader's interest or is a bunch of non sequiturs that are unlinked by any devices.


Remember: Whether you LIKE the poem is the very last thing you should consider if you wish to remain objective.