What is Poetry

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Thread: What is Poetry

  1. #1

    What is Poetry

    What is poetry?
    We can possibly best define what poetry is by saying what it isn't. For one thing, poetry, unlike prose, cannot be paraphrased. If you could sum it up succinctly in any other fashion you wouldn't write the poem. One can talk about the theme of a poem, for instance, but it's the poem itself which conveys the ultimate effect. A poem is the best possible expression of what the poet wants to say. Some might say that the form and content of art, in this case poetry, is untranslatable.
    From Open University-Approaching Poetry

  2. #2
    Very nice.

    I have the same thing about poetry. Like pornography it's hard to define but I know it when I see it. And have a list of things it isn't. One of which is "an essay whose lines don't extend to the right side of the page", yet we see so much of that.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  3. #3
    I was, an still am to a large extent, very inspired by classical poetry. The real craft of writing with structure and meter is so understated these days. It's taken me a long time to accept what people call poetry these days as really being poetry. Those who can't write structured verse seem to frown on those who can and regard it as second rate. The truth is that crafted poetry takes far more skill than breaking a piece of prose into short lines and stanzas.

    But reading people who can inject real rhythm and cadence into free verse has broadened my outlook a lot. I still feel that if I write in a free verse style then the end result is enhanced by an understanding of classical structure.
    spiorad saor in aisce

  4. #4
    I did have a little chuckle to myself when I saw this. I believe that poetry, of all the arts/entertainments/diversions, get more frequently discussed by those involved than any other. It is rare to find fiction writers discussing what fiction is and how it is judged to be fiction, or musicians discussing what makes music be music, or painters arguing over when does a painting become a painting! The only exception I can think of is jazz, and every time I hear people discussing what is "jazz", I want to run them down in my car.

    There seems to be a fundamental need, amongst many of those involved in poetry, to underpin what they are doing with some justification. It's almost as if without the right boxes ticked, they are afraid to reveal their words. So, what is poetry? Essentially, I think it is something written by a poet. Defining a poet is so much easier than getting into the muddy water of poetry. Poetry is a product of the poet, and so the poet is where the understanding needs to start.

    Poets are people who carry a love of words and conceit in equal measure. Poets construct, for themselves, a house of cards based upon whatever it is that they can find to justify the way they work. They obey certain rules, or they break certain rules. They turn on those whose conceit is a differing flavour to theirs, and they take a dim view of any change, experimentation or advance that they are not party to. They sneer at those who are better or equal to them in writing ability if they don't follow the same rules, and they fawn over those beneath them, who do follow their guidelines, in some stance of great benevolence.

    They sit smoking their opium/cigarettes or sipping their wine/absinthe (just insert the right ingredients for the flavour of conceit they have adopted) and pontificate with verbal and literary doodles. They hanker for the days of gothic grandeur and classical rhyme, or for oblivion and chaos, or whatever ticks the boxes of their stylings, and they see themselves as an artist, a sage, a wiser man or woman, not a mere scribbler of words.

    They weave words into ever dizzying spirals, and when praised they accept their greatness with some small mask of modesty. When challenged, they declare the reader unfit for their pearls of wisdom, unable to dive into the depths they have created. God forbid if another poet challenges their work. Then the challenger is nothing more than a charlatan, a fraud, a know-nothing who hasn't learned/broken the right rules. Yes, there are even rules about which rules can be broken!

    The greatest irony is that few remember that the reader - the consumer of the words - simply wants to read something that stimulates. However, for the poet, a best-seller (unless, of course, it is theirs) is an outrage that feeds the ignorant masses!

    And we all wonder why the popularity of poetry is in decline!

    I think Lin said it best. Poetry is like pornography. When you see it, you know it. Of course, not all of us have the same tastes in pornography, or poetry for that matter. Mind you, having had a life revolving around writing, and having enjoyed it, if I had my time again I would be a pornographer.
    Last edited by Pete_C; May 20th, 2010 at 01:03 PM.

  5. #5
    Baron
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    Thinking for the reader, or rather for the market, is a limiting factor. I like Dannyboy's attitude when it comes to this. He writes for himself and if it's appreciated that's a bonus.

    Making generatlities about the nature of poets is a red herring as well. All sorts of people write for all sorts of reasons with all sorts of approaches and attitudes. Those who are conceited about it are a pain but so are those who deny that there is a craft to creating good poetry.

    The one quality that really defines a poem to me, in whatever form, is the ability to get a response from a reader that prose is unable to do. A gifted pen can touch deep emotions with a few words in a way that prose never can.

  6. #6
    Banned Martin's Avatar
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    Like music, paintings, or any other art, etc., poetry, the many ways we want to understand it, is nothing but concepts constructed by the human mind. In reality, it's just words on a page. Humans are the emotional expressions (and responses) and poetry is nothing but another word really... But like with any other thing, we like to fool ourselves to believe we're actually doing something. I'm leaning towards to say this need to define is to do with our human nature in particular. We don't see this somewhat ignorant behaviour in fish, do we?

  7. #7
    Baron
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    If you've got a fish that can write a poem then you're on a real earner.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin View Post
    Like music, paintings, or any other art, etc., poetry, the many ways we want to understand it, is nothing but concepts constructed by the human mind. In reality, it's just words on a page. Humans are the emotional expressions (and responses) and poetry is nothing but another word really... But like with any other thing, we like to fool ourselves to believe we're actually doing something. I'm leaning towards to say this need to define is to do with our human nature in particular. We don't see this somewhat ignorant behaviour in fish, do we?

  8. #8
    This says it about as well as anything

    Ars Poetica


    A poem should be palpable and mute
    As a globed fruit

    Dumb
    As old medallions to the thumb

    Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
    Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

    A poem should be wordless
    As the flight of birds

    A poem should be motionless in time
    As the moon climbs

    Leaving, as the moon releases
    Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

    Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
    Memory by memory the mind -

    A poem should be motionless in time
    As the moon climbs

    A poem should be equal to:
    Not true

    For all the history of grief
    An empty doorway and a maple leaf

    For love
    The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

    A poem should not mean
    But be

    Archibald MacLeish
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  9. #9
    Member MaggieG's Avatar
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    Hmmmm The "why" people write is irrelevant to poetry, at least to my way of thinking. People wrote, people write, and people will continue to do so.That "How" they do it is what ticks off the possibilities for me. I read somewhere some writer who stated " It has all been said before. The trick now is "How" you will say it these days." That "How" can encompass many things from genre, method ( prose, poetry, novel, plays etc) to your very choice of words. My"How" is poetry, and poetry for me is the compressed, concise language of emotion. Use, manipulate, caress , and fondle your words into stilled, or moving pictures that relay, or express something we can all relate to, or feel ( And if they can't ? Make them understand it. )

  10. #10
    Banned Martin's Avatar
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    Rob, indeed, **** the money though, I would just be interested in hearing what he had to say...

    Lin, I dig Archibald's take. The essentialist one as opposed to the constructed...

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