What makes a poem good or bad? This is a highly subjective question because different people receive different levels of satisfaction or enjoyment from a single poem. In general, good poetry is vibrant, has captivating imagery, and uses powerful and emotion-provoking words to attract the listener. In addition, good poetry has thought provoking themes that engross the reader or the listener so much, so that he gives his full attention to the poet. A good poem will accomplish its objectives by captivating its audience and spreading a social message that the listeners/ readers will accept and adhere to.
Others may suggest that good poetry is based on imagery and metaphors. Imagery and metaphors raise an okay poem into a memorable one. This is because they help the reader/listener engage and connect with the poet and the words that stem from his mouth. How clever the poem is in its use of these stylistic forms determines, for most, how good a poem really is. To others, a poem is not a poem unless it has linguistic styles that include irony, personification, meter, word play, and rhyme.
Perhaps the most important quality of a good poem is the voice of the poet. The poet needs to bring out a distinctive and strong voice so that his message is clearly heard by his audience. Good poetry has a distinctive voice that can conjure a new world in the minds of the reader or the listener. Most importantly, good poetry lasts in the mind of the reader and makes him want to re-read it so that he can experience the emotion he felt when he first read it. There is always an emotional response to a good poem.
On the other hand, bad poetry leaves a bad taste in the mind of the reader/listener. Components of a bad poem include erratic rhymes, imperfect meter, cliché imagery, problems with the topic of discussion, and too much drama. Bad poetry will often exaggerate, caper, whine, and mope over a topic without clearly bringing the message out. Improper allusions, overused similes, metaphors, and awkward alliteration are some of the ways that bad poems misuse stylistic techniques.
More often than not, bad poems will have a mis-structured form. Any poem that is of a specific form must follow the guidelines for that form strictly. Breaking the form of the poem makes it look and sound ugly. Poets who are not very skilled in sticking to the form rules use free verse, which ensures that they do not make the mistake of breaking the form of the poem.
The biggest sign that a poem is badly composed is trouble with the topic. The poem does not convey its purpose or its topic clearly to the audience. Furthermore, the topic should be meaningful to the audience of the poem. The poem should involve a topic that the audience is interested in hearing about. Some bad poems usually have competing aspects of the same topic.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, ‘Annabel Lee’ is a good poem because of its intensity and the fascination he exhibits with the topic in question. The poem talks about a young beautiful woman that he had fallen in love with and her tragic end. The poem is so sad, eliciting emotions in the mind of the reader. The poem discusses a topic that all the readers can resonate with because the tragic end of a love is common. The readers can feel the pain of the poet as he describes his love for the maiden. He also describes, in beautiful imagery, how her death continues to haunt him every day. Every waking moment he thinks about her, and even when he lies down to sleep, her image stalks his dreams.