Monday 1 April 2013

Topic 4 for PP Chatroom: What Makes a Poem 'Best'?

Editorial Note

From the pageview statistics, we know that our 3rd topic has been receiving more readerly attention than almost all other postings of the month. This fact is so encouraging that we will continue this more theoretical approach to poetry. In other words, we will try to keep this chatroom open insofar as there are a reasonably good number of visitors dropping by.

The Observation

Over the past two decades or so, we have had increasingly more 'best' poems of every conceivable kind: there are as many 'best' poems as journals, media, places, years, authors, or readers in power. While every judge seems to be authoritative enough to proclaim whatever s/he considers the 'best,' very few have even mentioned in passing why s/he has chosen the piece(s), let alone officially disclose a set of criteria used in the selecting process. At the same time, all common readers could do nothing but acquiesce. The reason is all too understandable: in matters concerning poetry, everything is simply personal and subjective. That is to say, the 'best' poems, if any at all, are 'best' simply because they are most favoured by a privileged reader or a group of privileged readers.

The Question

What are, if any at all, the universally acceptable elements that make a poem 'best'?

Your written comments on or response to the topic are more than welcome in the box below or at

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