Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Marilyn L. Taylor's 20 Questions to Ask of Your Poems
WHEN YOU REVISE. . .
TWENTY QUESTIONS TO ASK OF YOUR POEMS
By Marilyn L. Taylor
1. Even if it’s ambiguous, is the poem understandable and reasonably clear on the literal level?
2. Is what the poem has to say being said gracefully enough, i.e. with strength and with music?
3. If there is a “deeper” meaning, will the reader be able to discern it?
4. Is there more that wants to be said?
5. Is it “true”—not necessarily in terms of fact (i.e. “what really happened”), but in terms of its emotions, convictions, ethics?
6. Is there anything in it—stanzas, images, words—that doesn’t belong, or clutter it up?
7. If it digresses, do the digressions have a purpose?
8. Does it contain expressions or images that are clichéd or sentimental?
9. Is it making a point that’s too predictable, or already evident?
10. Allowing for some intentional variation, is the grammar correct?
11. Are you certain that the thoughts, lines, stanzas are presented in the right order?
12. Has enough attention been paid to line breaks?
13. Are the tone / attitude / stance appropriate and consistent? Have you selected the most effective speaker?
14. Is the level of diction appropriate? If unusual, does it serve a purpose?
15. If the syntax (word order) is unusual, do the variations serve a purpose?
16. Are all of the poem’s moments directed toward a common goal?
17. Does the poem avoid excluding the reader from its meaning or intent?
18. Does it have an effective ending—one that the reader will regard as “inevitable”?
19. Does the poem look inviting on the page?
20. Overall, do you like the poem?