Poet Robert Cording recently gave this answer to the question, “What makes a poem convincing?”
“I always tell my students that the first question they must answer when they write is: Why is the speaker of the poem speaking? If a poem is to be convincing, then the speaker of the poem must be convincing. The reader must feel that he/she is making contact with a real human being, not simply with arguments and opinions. If the poems feels like it has sifted and arranged received ideas, then it will fail. The poem has to feel, I think, as if there is a real person struggling with real experiences that will not yield some handy lesson, but nevertheless are not entirely without meaning. The voice that convinces will always be the voice of an individual who the reader experiences as an individual and not as a spokesperson for this or that idea.”
Robert Cording in “Robert Cording: 10 Minute Interview,” CavanKerry News, Fall 2006. Cording, Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross, is the author of Common Life: Poems (CavanKerry, 2006) and three other collections. His work has appeared many national publications, including the Nation, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker. Common Life was reviewed on this site on April 5 and is archived with the April posts and in the “Poetry” category.
(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.