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Though we’ve been talking about poetry for several chapters, and though I’ve even asked you to write poetry, we haven’t formally considered what makes something a poem. One reason I have been able to do this is that I expect you all have some ideas already about what makes a poem. That can be both good and bad. In the previous chapters, I’ve tried to work with those received notions at times and to challenge them at other times. Much of what we learn about poetry in our early school years (and, for that matter, even in undergraduate literature classes) can seem outdated or even archaic when compared to the poems we read in current literary magazines or anthologies. You may find contemporary poetry unfamiliar, even confusing. That doesn’t make one form of poetry right and the other forms wrong, but students often come to an introductory creative writing class with a fairly limited idea of what constitutes a poem and with a fairly limited experience of reading poetry. Though that is perfectly understandable, now is the time to begin to expand our notion of what makes something a poem.
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