Evaluating an Elegy Based on a Rubric



Apples are greater than ashes, but less than or equal to an empty music stand.


Couplets merit full points.


Reminder: Your peers will use this as a checklist, even if they have never yet written an elegy.


Ask: What is the atmosphere? Do birds sing when they shouldn’t?


Make sure the lines are a little prison for feeling, everyone in uniform, on a schedule, ready for lights out.


Never tell your grief, or use the word sorrow, or mourn.


Make sure every punctuation mark gives the impression of being kissed by a stubbled chin.


Be sure to include some form of the following: husk, pearls, something circular, something pried away.


As the honor code states: Any form of flower is grounds for immediate dismissal, as is looking over a dent in the earth and calling it grave.

Jenn Givhan, a National Endowment for the Arts and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellow, is a Mexican-American writer and activist from the Southwestern desert. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections: Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize), Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize Series edited by Billy Collins), Girl with Death Mask (2017 Blue Light Books Prize chosen by Ross Gay), and Rosa's Einstein (Camino Del Sol Poetry Series, forthcoming 2019). Her two novels, Trinity Sight and Jubilee, are forthcoming from Blackstone Press. Her honors include the Frost Place Latinx Scholarship, a National Latinx Writers’ Conference Scholarship, the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, Phoebe Journal’s Greg Grummer Poetry Prize chosen by Monica Youn, the Pinch Poetry Prize chosen by Ada Limón, and ten Pushcart nominations. Her work has appeared in Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Ploughshares, POETRY, TriQuarterly, Boston Review, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, Missouri Review, and The Kenyon Review, among many others. Givhan holds a Master’s degree in English from California State University Fullerton and an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and she can be found discussing feminist motherhood at jennifergivhan.com as well as Facebook & Twitter @JennGivhan.