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>You’re not the boss of me,

>I say. Defining poetry
Is a task best left to those who Do,
Not some Society.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Elizabeth says:

    >Wow. I love the idea that anyone can plant a flag and decide what is or isn’t poetry. There must be a group like this composed of all those people at art museums who say “My 5 year old could draw better than this.”

    My society is going to be called “Charlotte and Wilbur’s Barnyard Broads.” We will not recognize any allegories or books in free verse as children’s literature, and in our free time we will circulate a petition to ban the works of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett on Broadway.

  2. J Larios says:

    >How silly! It sounds like a Monty Python skit, doesn’t it? Michael Palin as a representative of the Queen’s English Society, goosestepping around & making pronouncements about meter and rhyme & bonking people over the head? “Naughty, naughty!”

    I especially laughed at the idea of “word-things” that give someone “a special pleasure” – that sounds like the introduction to George Carlin’s Filthy Words act (or Martin Mull’s classic, Talk Dirty to Me.)

    That said, I prefer the Donne poem to the one by Michael Schmidt. But that’s personal taste, not a definition. I like what Richard Wilbur said about form: “I have never aimed at a monumental quality in my poems, and I don’t much like it in the poems of others. It pleases me always to endanger whatever form I’m working in. I’ve written very few sonnets, but when I work in the sonnet, I try to threaten the form, expressively, in the way that my hero John Milton always did. Milton’s sonnets freely overrun the tidy divisions of the sonnet form for expressive purposes, and therefore if his poems are ‘perfect,’ they’re not perfect in the sense of being neat. They’re perfect in the sense of treating the form in such a way as at all times to put it at the service of the meaning.”

  3. janeyolen says:

    >Dear Mr. Lamb,

    You should take care
    When making free
    With edicts on
    True poetry.

    For some who write
    With perfect rhyme
    Can still commit
    Poetic crime.


  4. Elaine Magliaro says:


    I’d better check to see that all my “word-things” meet this group’s criteria for what poetry is. Just because some “word-things” have rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, etc., doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will be fine poetry. I’m sure that there would be a lot of tripe that might meet the “poetic” criteria.

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