What makes a poet great?
It’s 10:30am on a Tuesday and class is about to begin. Two poets are just taking their seats while three others near the door chat about the weather. On each desk is a copy of the same three poems, scribbled on in varying hues of ink and shapes of handwriting. Workshop is open to the poets.
So we’ve all produced some amazing poetry, despite the fact that we spend what sometimes feels like forever critiquing every detail of each poem. There are some basic guidelines to poetry that we have learned to stick to in order that we might keep from writing anything less than stellar–avoid cliches, keep the adverb count down, etc.–but what’s the secret formula? It seems easy enough to point to a poem and label it, “needs work” (cough–bad–cough), but how do we distinguish the good from the great? A friend of mine recently read aloud a poem to me, and he writes poetry himself, so I had assumed this poem was his own work. When he finished, I was all ready to critique the poem and suggest some specific edits. Turns out, the poem was written by some famous Such and Such, and who was I to judge this famous Such and Such poet when I am merely a lowly college student? Certainly we could send our work to every publication out there and get a few uplifting replies, but who’s to say today’s poems we’re workshopping can’t be the next “The Road Not Taken”?