20 Questions to Ask of Your Poem

April 10, 2024

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating in oh, so many ways. You can, too. Here’s a list of 20 questions to ask of your poem provided by Seretta Martin. (Keep this on your writing desk to refer to often!)

 

 

1. Is the first line strong and compelling enough to make the reader want to read my poem? Have I invited the reader in? What do I want the reader to come away with?

 

2. Where does the poem take place? What is the setting? Have I painted it with words?

 

3. What is being said? Shown? Is it clear? Who is the audience? Is there a theme? Is there more that wants to be said or show? Or is there too much?

 

4. What kind of figurative language, if any, does the poem use? (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, etc. Do I have mixed metaphors that would confuse the reader?

 

5. Is sound important in this poem? If rhyme —do the rhymes work or are they forced? Does it sound sing-song? Should I consider internal rhyme? What is the rhythm? Have I read it aloud listening for sound (lyricism, assonance, alliteration, etc.)

 

6. Does it feel? What are the emotions? Have I used at least one if not more of “the senses”? Does it go deep enough?

 

7. Have I used strong images? Does the poem use imagery to achieve a particular effect?

 

8. What situation is presented? What is the tone?  The mood?  Is it the right voice?

 

9. Is it too predictable? Does it allow strangeness? Could any of the words be more interesting? Is it the best word for the line? Are there cliches where I could use fresher language?

 

10. Are the transitions working? Are there turns? Is it the right or best order or should I move lines or stanzas? Does each of its movements actively move the poem toward its full realization?

 

11. Is the grammar correct? Is the punctuation consistent within the poem? Should it have punctuation, or would it be better without it?

 

12. What form does the poem take? How is the form / shape related to the content? How does it look on the page? (consider line breaks, enjambment, stanzas, etc.)

 

13. What does the title suggest? Is it the right title for the poem? Does it give away too much?

 

14. Does the poem follow its own deepest impulses? Does it know more than it did when it started?

 

15. Does it leave the reader a thoughtful conclusion, a question, or an element of surprise? If the poem is a question, then what is the answer? If a poem is an answer, then what is the question?

 

16. Does the poem spring from an identifiable historical moment?

 

17. Does the poem speak from a specific culture?

 

18. Is the poem self-satisfied? Is the poem fully realized?

 

19. Is the end line strong? Have I considered ending on a strong image, action, dialogue, or a sound?

 

20. Does the poem need to rest a while?

 

 

You can find out more about National Poetry Month here. Find out more about how to join an online community for NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) here.

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