What the heck is poetry anyway?


Poetry (noun)

Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning.

I said something pretty close to the above off-the-cuff last night when my dad asked me on the phone to define poetry. Neither of us was satisfied with my answer.

He was asking because I had the good fortune to be selected as a winner in the NY Public Library’s Twitter Poetry contest (I’m under thunk2much/itsnothingreally). While my dad was very glad for the news, and even liked the poems I wrote (!), he had a good question. What makes these things poetry?  Clearly, they don’t rhyme. But there is a strong difference in the cadence of the things I call poems and the other stuff (like this here rambling blog thingie).

I’ve never called myself a poet. I have enough trouble using the W word. I’ve written lots of poems though. Some are truly terrible. No, really. But so what? It’s cliché maybe, but I like to think it’s the thought that counts. And that’s what a poem is… sort of. A thought.
“All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.”
~ Oscar Wilde

I guess in my mind, a poem is always a self-contained thing, a mood, a feeling, something that defines itself as a big thing in a smaller package. Like the TARDIS, it’s bigger on the inside. It should reveal itself, even if it plays hard to get, and it should take you along for a ride of sorts. There is joy in writing poems, or at least release. Through the 14 Words for Love projects, I’ve seen people who would never call themselves poets become… well, poets! And I’ve seen experienced poets practice clarity in amazing ways, with wonderful results.

I’m realizing I like the boundaries offered by short poems, but of course not too many rules. Take away the infinite space that is digital white paper, tell me to limit my words or characters, and I’m happy to try to squeeze everything I can, cat-like, into that tiny space. And when you take away everything that doesn’t add to the thing you’re trying to capture, it defines itself right before your eyes. But Wikipedia probably doesn’t see it quite that way.

So then, what the heck is poetry to you?

1 Comment

  1. UCAS Student Elias

    i kind of agree with you on the TARDIS but for me i think instead of thinking small thing can be big things i think its more like the bigger the meaning the more people have to think about it and see if they get it, poetry for me is making you think more on the imagination side, get close and close to the meaning. but then soon it can mean this at the same time, just my opinion,


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