What is Poetry?

What is poetry blog

We got a good vibe going in the café last week with the question, Are you a Poet? , and I was amazed and loved reading the poetic responses. This week I am going to try and keep the vibe going by taking things a step further back and asking, “What is Poetry?

I posed the question on my personal blog nearly a year ago and it is still the most read and commented on post. Despite all the responses I am still no further forward in being able to define what poetry is.

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.

Does this take us any further forward? Maybe the suggestion around poetic qualities, spirit or feeling in anything, might start to scratch the surface.

Whilst I was pondering the question I read a poem, I burn gold, by the excellent poet yassy, and her lines, in my opinion, get closer to the answer.

“ I read my soul
I pluck verses
From the depths of my soul
I become poetry
and poetry becomes me…”

It is possible there is no definite answer and poetry is whatever it wants to be. In the spirit of last weeks poetic dance in the café, I offer the following thought and poem, in that poetry can never be defined;  we can only offer metaphor in our pursuit of the answer – a bit like chasing butterflies.

Chasing Butterflies

An array of Cabbage White and
Red Admiral bask on lavender,
Teasing a pen to paper.

Cupped hands chase air – the
Butterfly nurtured to move
Beyond arms reach, leaving
A brain derelict for description.

Exhausted,
All that’s left
Are vague shadows and
Scribbles on a half empty page.

What is poetry to you? I am looking forward to you bringing your thoughts and poetry to the café.

40 thoughts on “What is Poetry?

  1. Chasing butterflies – An insightful metaphor. It makes me think if we really did capture the butterfly, the chase would come to an bitter and ugly end. Butterflies aren’t meant to be cached and that dance we do while chasing is what the beauty there. The same could be said for poetry, we can never Whag we feel but only attempt a chase towards it and read what’s unraveled on the paper. Although on the technical point of view, Poetry is almost a bit hard to write or read. It plays on the mind a simple trick, ladies playing for centuries. Hard to get. The more we struggle (to write and understand), it seems more beautiful. Also I think, there are a million perspectives of poetry and a million and one way of defining it. I apologize for a long answer, nothing intrigues me and roll my tongue like talking about poetry.

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  2. For me all Art, including poetry, must fire both my imagination and intellect. Poetry is word Art and is the same as music, painting etc just in a different form. Poetry is created using complex arrangements of symbols or letters which form words that are then perfectly placed to create images that the reader can access and experience something new. Of all the Arts , poetry needs the most intellectual input, both in it’s creation and interpretation to be rewarding, no elitism is suggested here, it’s simply poetry’s use of symbols/letters makes it so. This is why poetry leaves a lot of people cold. Music or paintings can be accessed on a purely emotional level, using only aural or visual senses, so for example it would be very rare to find someone who didn’t like any music but very easy to find someone who doesn’t like poetry.
    Sooooo I’m now going to read Thomas’s Fern Hill whilst listening to ‘Fire & Water’ by Free facing a print of Monet’s ‘Woman with Parasol’.

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  3. But is this poetry or just prose.
    An array of cabbage; white and red admiral, bask on lavender… teasing a pen to paper. Cupped hands chase air – the butterfly nurtured to move beyond arms reach, leaving a brain derelict for description. Exhausted, all that’s left are vague shadows and scribbles on a half empty page.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A good point Jerry and you make the valid point that just by putting line breaks into prose doesn’t necessarily make it poetry. Your response makes me think of prose poetry or the poetic stories such as Beowulf. Maybe poetry and prose are just labels that are only signposts. Maybe there is only writing. Thanks for your valuable input into the conversation.

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  6. For myself, poetry is the act of writing, or for some a form of verbal outcry which delivers a feeling of trance. By which the audience and/or readers are encapsulated by the words they’re hearing or reading. It’s allowing the poet, the writer, the artist to bring an alternative form of life to something they’re feeling, going through, or experiencing. Whether that’s something they just want to get off their chest or use as a means to hypnotize and steer the emotions of other people. It’s by all means a form of Audible spell casting – positive witchcraft, if you will.

    (I’ve got to say, for someone who’s new to wordpress I’ve found the community on here to be rather communicative. Ads contradictory as that may sound, it’s becoming quite rare in online social spaces. I will follow this blog, I think it’s…I’m not sure. Special sounds to common, but whatever this blog is, it’s the new special.)

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    • You nailed it friend, couldn’t agree more. I prefer the term, Alchemist of word’, could be construed as a tad pompous so I try to choose the situation in which I may use it but it’s accurate and is in agreement with your take on the matter. Poetry is taking iron and transforming it into gold.

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    • Thank you for finding us and for your valued comments Mr. K. I love the phrase you use “positive witchcraft” and it seems more appropriate than poetry which, as a term, may be not relevant in this day and age. As you will see this blog is an eclectic mix of poets and hope you will find something to your taste.

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  8. Writing a poetic composition is an art with the intent to share thoughts and emotions with oneself and others. While poetry is a rhythmical composition, prose is without metrical structure. Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects. Lyrics also convey thoughts and emotions, and lyrics can be poetic.

    Whether or not the piece is true poetry, the thoughts conveyed by the author are what matters and more importantly, the beauty, like art, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

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  9. “Don’t Try” Burkowski has inscribed on his tombstone in L.A. I’m sure he is right – for some people all the time, but for others just some of the time. I think the best poetry can arrive without too much conscious thought, the spontaneous outpouring of emotion (Wordsworth again) packed into a few apt words. Poetry is rarely found on the surface, it demands thought and imagination to be fully interpreted. It can make beautiful sounds with words, but It requires an extra something, which I believe is found when it contains truths which are rarely obvious and often hard to unearth. For much of the time some of us struggle to compose indifferent verse which we call poetry; to only a few is the gift given to do it successfully ‘without trying’.

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    • Thanks for this insight Roland and Bukowski’s poetry always leaves you with some feeling or emotion. The Japanese Master, Basho also said about poetry being your first thought and not to spend much time editing. Maybe Roland, the poetry is in our first thoughts and feelings and we edit it into prose.

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    • Thanks Gwen. It was the image that popped into my mind thinking over the question. It’s funny how the mind works sometimes but I am not going to argue with it. I appreciate you taking time out to read and add to the conversation.

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  14. Chiming in as one in favor of setting free the internal squabble over whether something is more poetry or prose. I personally can’t remember when I did not toy with breaking a fiction thing into lines/stanzas, just to see how it might look or feel – look for places to play with meter/rhythm/sound. First concern is entertaining myself. Second is to get all surprise-party celebratory if someone out there actually feels entertained by anything I wrote and thrust into the blogosphere wilderness (or dared to upload on amazon). Sentences or lines? Hey flip a coin. Maybe flip it twice. Whenever I try to play literature techie with it, disaster is bound to befall and bring all the enjoyment to a screeching stop.

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    • Interesting thoughts Timmy and thank you for taking time to share them. Whether it is poetry or prose I would say they are all experiments with words. Many of the more famous poets broke with conventions of the time. Don’t stop experimenting. In among the carnage there will be some great writing.

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