1.  What is the poem literally about?  What happens?  What’s the subject?

(If you can’t tell exactly what the poem is about, can you recognize some things

that are going on?)


2.  Where does the poem take place?  (If there’s no definite setting, that’s important

to notice.)


3.  Who is speaking the poem?  (Is that speaker a character, someone distinct from

the poet?)  Who is the poet addressing?


4.  Is the writing clear?  (If not, is there an expressive reason for the confusion?)


5.  Are there enough images?  Are those images fresh and vivid?  Are there enough

specific details?


6.  Are the rhythms expressive and appropriate to the subject? 


7.  Do the sounds (consonants and vowels; rhymes assonance, and alliteration, if any)

sound interesting and effective?  Are they easy to say or tongue-twisters, pleasant

or discordant?


8.  Are there repeated words, phrases, or lines in the poem?  Are those repetitions

effective or redundant?


9.  Is the poem written in meter, free verse, prose, or some combination?  Is it done

so effectively?  How could the line breaks or meter be improved?  How could the

sentences be improved?


10.  Is the poem written in any particular pattern or form (such as the sonnet, sestina,

or villanelle)?  Does it work well?  Is there any “filler”?  Does anything seem forced

to fit into the form?


11.  Is the poem marred by any of these flaws:


       —poeticized language; flowery or inflated expressions?

       —sentimentality, greeting-card effusions?

       —dull, prosaic, explanatory phrases?

       —generality and/or too many abstractions?

       —bombast, rhetorical overkill?

       —clichés, stereotypes, hackneyed language, dead metaphors?

       —shifts in verb tense or in singular/plural nouns and pronouns?

       —errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, capitalization, use of apostrophes?

       —inexact or incorrect word choices?


12.  Does the poem begin in the right spot?  Should it begin later?  Should something

be inserted before the current beginning?


13.  Does the reader need any information that is not given?


14.  Is the title interesting—or at least appropriate?  If there’s no title, can you

suggest one? 


15.  Does the poem move well from line to line, from stanza to stanza?  Should the

order be changed?  Should there be different line breaks, stanza breaks? 


16.  Does the poem end effectively, in the right spot, with the right language?

Should it end sooner?  Should it continue?


17.  If the poem seems neat and orderly, should it be wilder?  If the poem seems

wild, should it be more controlled?


18.  Does the poet use any irony, rhetorical devices, allusions, or other tricks?

If so, do they work?


19.  What do you like in the poem?  What problems do you see?  What suggestions

can you give the poet?


20.  What questions would you like to ask the poet?  What confuses you?  What

don’t you understand?


                                                         John Drury