in Writing

Customer-centered poetry

In Good Poems Keillor suggests that what makes a poem good depends both on what one intends to use it for and who intends to use it. If one wants a poem for English majors to analyze in a seminar room, certain qualities are likely to be prized—complexity, density, ambivalence. But if one intends poems to reach a general audience in the ordinary business of their day, then other qualities are primary—such as expressive power, music, and memorability.

Good Poems is not a volume aimed at academic pursuits but at ordinary human purposes. And it insists that poetry can still play a meaningful role in those purposes. So unambiguously dedicated to the notion that poetry is a vehicle for truth, self-awareness, and inspiration, Good Poems is a post-modernist’s nightmare in nineteen chapters.

from Dana Gioia’s review of Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor.