When you’re reading someone else’s poem, seek to answer the following three sets of (related) larger questions:
- What is the poem trying to do? Where is it achieving that intention? Where could it do more to achieve it? Is there a latent intention that could be teased out of the poem?
- How is the poem working on the level of the syllable? word? phrase? line? Does the poem’s form fit its function?
- How does the poem communicate — is it logical/literal (makes sense) or intuitive/figurative (doesn’t make sense) or somewhere in between? Where do you need more of one or the other communication style (i.e., more logic or more leaping)? Here focus on metaphors, images, symbols, connotations, allusions…those sorts of things.
REMEMBER TONE. Your word choices matter. “Annoying” is a case in point — it tends to crop up here and there. I find it particularly annoying. Avoid it and any other word that conveys a similar adversarial tone.