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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Good The Bad and The Ugly

KC Metro Verse met last night and the topic of discussion was good and bad poetry. For all the subjectivity required of such a discussion, it was in fact enjoyable and there were some agreements.

We did not set out to define poetry, though I was prepared with my minimal definition. We extended our discussion into the area of Garrison Keillor’s two anthologies, due to the claim to “good poetry” as part of their title.

I believe it is difficult to place a definition on what constitutes good poetry and bad poetry. Like beauty, it sort of comes down to who is the beholder. In the case of bad poetry, it seemed a lot easier to agree on what was bad. I suppose like often quoted remark about what constitutes pornography, I may not know how to explain it, but when I see it, I recognize it.

I think it is perhaps easier to say what a good poem isn’t than what it is. It isn’t rhyme at any cost. It isn’t more words than needed. It isn’t void of any literary devise. It isn’t cliché. Those elements tend to add up to a bad poem.

But what is good anyway. If I had a good day, that’s ok. Isn’t a great day superior to a good day? So while good isn’t bad, it could certainly be construed as say, just average or acceptable.

Keillor’s anthologies were written more in mind with a casual or non-poetry reader. His selections in both books (which I have read in but not through) seem to be decent. In that context, I suppose the title is quite appropriate. There are, as I recall even some exceptional poems among his selections. For Keillor to tag the title in such a way to suggest something more substantial, he might well have run the risk of scaring off many readers that are not poetry fanatics.

There is almost a whole cottage industry now of bad poetry. There very likely is an anthology out there titled The Worst of Bad Poetry.
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