Editing poetry. The very idea seem blasphemous in a way: judging the heartfelt innermost thoughts of a person. What a ludicrous idea! Yet it's what I do.
As Senior Poetry Editor for Eye on Life Online Magazine, publishing The Poetry Locksmith feature more or less weekly, I am blessed to receive English language poetry from people all over the world. If I think it belongs, I publish it on Eye on Life. If I don't think it belongs on Eye on Life, I send the poet a rejection email. Having received many rejection letters myself, as a poet and writer, I know how they go:
"Thank you for your submission. We regret that we cannot place your work at this time. This is by no means a reflection on the quality of your work. We wish you the best of luck in placing your work elsewhere."
It takes me a lot longer to send a rejection notice than it does an acceptance. I don't like to be the kind of editor that judges a work based on whether or not I am happy. I am happy most of the time, but everybody has a bad day once in a while. I wouldn't want to reject a piece because of it, so I re-read a work several more times before rejecting it than those I accept. Never rejecting a good poem because of a typo, I let the poet know and give them a chance to fix it.
As in life, in publishing acceptance is a much happier thing. The poems I accept usually (but not always) speak to me right away. I know what I'm looking for, and finding it makes me glad.
I am looking for poetry with vivid and compelling imagery, fresh and inventive usage and/or poetry that works perfectly within or transcends its form. I am not looking for poetry that describes feelings in literal words, or poetry that would work just as well as a paragraph, or poetry that has been forced (blackmailed, held at gunpoint, whatever) to rhyme or crammed into a form into which it simply does not fit. Also I do not publish poetry that establishes a rhythm only to abandon it for no reason halfway through.
Therefore, it is not without a modicum of objectivity that I seek "good" poetry. Still, I have to admit, it is a subjective process. I must 'like' the poem if I am going to publish it, and I must also think my readers will like it.
I am having the time of my life as Senior Poetry Editor at Eye on Life Online Magazine. People I don't know send me great poetry all the time. It does not get much better than this.