What is Poetry?

What is poetry blog

Sitting at a barbeque, at the weekend, a guest turned to me and said “I hear you’re a poet.”

A conversation ensued which led to me showing her the Inside the Mind of Davy D blog.

After a short while browsing on her phone, she turned to me and whispered,
“That’s not poetry, it’s just words and pictures……………. and it doesn’t even rhyme.”

Before we got to the “How many books have you published?” question I thanked her for the feedback and went and got another glass of Malbec.

In fairness, she had a point and raised a good question, what is poetry?

Standard dictionary definitions show poetry as;

1. The art or craft of writing verse.
2. Literature written in meter; verse.
3. Prose that resembles a poem in some respect, as in form or sound.
4. Poetic qualities, spirit or feeling in anything.

Ask five poets to define poetry and they will give you five different answers.

To complicate matters further the website Poem Of Quotes lists 55 types of poetic form, ranging from ABC Poetry to Visual-Concrete Poetry.

So how do we establish what is poetry, and does it really matter?

Each week I read and enjoy many forms of poetry, some of which break the boundaries of what is considered to be conventional poetry. In my view, the most important thing should be the impact, thoughts and emotions the poem (in whatever form) leaves with the reader.

As William Wordsworth said, “All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feelings.”

What are your thoughts on what is, or is not, poetry?

186 Comments

Poetry to me (and I’m an amateur) is anyone’s feelings or emotions or anything really, any subject in any form… I haven’t really done ‘exact’ methods of it; I usually do rhyming, sometimes not, but it doesn’t always flow the right way.. I just write what’s on my mind…. when I’m led to do it.
I read others who do it so well in what’s considered proper form…Diane..

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    Thank you for your response Diane. I agree that poetry flows best when it comes from the heart. Sometimes when we push it into a structure it can lose its soul. I appreciate you taking time out to take part in the conversation.

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A comment from my follower https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/ “How do we define a published poet? Does it have to be a paper book?”

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I loved this post! Having taught poetry I chuckled after reading it, because to define poetry is like trying to define the weather. The description would be way too infinite to put into just a sentence in the dictionary.
I taught elementary school gifted students and introduced them early on to various styles of poetry. By the end of the year, they were writing free verse and spoken word and had an understanding that poetry was more about emotion, than about a specific confined style. I shared with them some of my favorite poets from Shakespeare’s Sonnets to Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Lord Byron, Keats and on and on and on. Each poet’s style was as different as the century or decade they influenced.
And that is the beauty of poetry! The poems which endure, continue to be appreciated no matter what the year may be or who wrote them.
As a teacher, I found that once I made my students understand the basic elements of rhythm, beat, presentation, emotion, vocabulary, content etc. it was impossible NOT to write something wonderful! The main goal was for each writer to reveal their own unique voice in their work. And if the reader or the listener feels something, anything at all, (Love, hate, sorrow, humor, remorse, fear, whatever it is), if they feel an emotion, then the poet has succeeded. THAT IS poetry. Each poet has a style that is unique to his or her generation, so you cannot put poems into a box and expect them to all be the same. Poets are the rock stars of their day! They are the wise souls who speak the truth with their masterful manipulation of words. And we would be lost without them.
Ben Johnson wrote that Shakespeare was “Not of an age but for all time.” I believe that to be true for all good poets. And the reason why poetry not only evolves and changes, but endures throughout the centuries. Because it captures what people are feeling at the moment in time when the piece was written.
Today poetry slams are like sporting events where people young and old gather and applaud, whistle and scream, and snap their fingers at the “spitting” they hear. Yes, the poets and their poems are revered once more. Poetry! Heartfelt words filled with emotion, written by creative artists sharing their inner most sentiments in every age, in every time. That is poetry!!!

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    Thank you Lesley for this wonderful response and if you are doing any workshops in the UK I would love to sign up. It is interesting when you look into the history of poetry, some of the historic poets were rebels in their time. Their poetry pushing the boundaries of what was deemed normal and acceptable. I also agree with your view that if a piece of poetry evokes an emotion it has done its job. Thanks for taking time to add to the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

      Unfortunately, I won’t be in the UK any time soon but if you are ever in Florida, (USA) look up the bluapple Poetry Network and Check us out. We will soon be having our two weeks of poetry activities/workshops and statewide poetry slams for our best individual poets and group poets in the state of Florida for “Louder Than A Bomb Florida” competitions. Listen to some of our winners from last year. These kids are amazing! I am delighted to have found your blog.
      http://bluapplepoetry.org/showtime/

      Liked by 3 people

      Thank you Lesley. Your event seems like a great showcase for poets. Thank you for the link I will have a look at it. Looking forward to more conversations in the future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Taking an
Ordinary bit of
Prose and
Breaking it up into random bits
Is
Not
What I’d call poetry!

Yet take a verse with rhyming plan,
And one that, furthermore, will scan,
And it will earn contempt and scorn
From those who claim from such is born
No poem known to man..

Liked by 2 people

I enjoy the poetics of language. The way words may laugh, taunt, or tease. The silvery sound slight- and slant-rhyme expound on the page, on the lips — order issued by human air. The Word wielded through verse, or rant lacking form, carries meaning, capturing our experiences. Poetry experiences the essence of life.

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I used to have a very closed mind regarding what constitutes poetry, although I have written poetry from a very early age. Now, older, and wiser (perhaps?) I enjoy many forms, even when I do not consider it to be poetry. Kat @ https://katmyrman.com manages to teach me anew by her marvellous use of all forms. Rappers today produce some magical poetry, which often goes unnoticed because of a biassed perception. I always find that reading aloud convinces me yea or nay!

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    Thank you for your insightful thoughts Peter. Poetry, with language, does change over time and I suppose there were people opposed to what non conformist poets wrote in their time. I agree about the reading out aloud aspect. I struggle with Shakespeare’s work when I read it, but it takes on a new life when read aloud.

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I think it’s fair to say I’m not much of a poet. I think my poem has succeeded if composing it has taught me something about words, and most often make that my goal, rather than to create a “good poem”. I’ve noticed that when I when I go through a poetic phase during which I write a lot of poetry, my prose takes a leap forward and up. All the same, I still love it when I somehow manage to compose a poem that moves me.

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Hi Davy….i was not aware what all the poetry is about. But yes…i am learning a lot about poetry. Poetry is emotions that flows out itself from the heart of poet without any effort

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Thank you Nicola for linking this to your blog. It is greatly appreciated.

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Thank you for linking to the post. It is much appreciated.

Like

Thanks for linking 🙂

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