To avoid any signs of conflict of interest, I've avoided mentioning the contest I just finished judging. Now that it's over, though, I can tell you that I spent a large chunk of April reading poetry submissions for the Frank O'Hara Prize. When the contest coordinator asked me to share some comments about how I went about the job, I told him this:
As I read the entries, I focused on several issues: (1) poems that used language in interesting ways, (2) poems that were dramatically cohesive, (3) poems that expanded beyond the speaker's own personal situation to address a more complex theme or issue, and (4) poems that did not seem to have preconceived endings. Gradually I whittled my stack down to the poems that seemed to do all of these things best.As you teach or write or read poems, how do you find yourself "judging" work? Do these criteria seem reasonable to you?