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How does one define poetry?

Here's a couple of definitions from google: po·et·ry /ˈpōətrē/Noun: 1. Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm;... 2. A quality of beauty and intensity of emotion regarded as characteristic of poems: "poetry and fire are nicely balanced in the music".

Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response.

And this by Billy Collins!

Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
I will come back when I stop thinking nasty thoughts about Billy Collins... that may never happen actually, I will come back when I can think of something other than nasty thoughts about Billy Collins Big Grin
I generally disagree with the standard definitions of poetry, probably just to be perverse Smile As soon as one definition is accepted, there will always be poets who are determined to challenge it and shift the boundaries once again. At the end of the day, it's poetry if the writer and at least one other person agree that it's poetry -- now, whether it's good or bad poetry is an entirely different question!
Heslopian raises an interesting point here -- when there's little doubt that a work is art, is it arbitrarily referred to as "poetry" because it's made up solely of words? Or is it poetry merely by virtue of its use of only words? Is poetry nothing more than art that uses words but doesn't count as prose?
Thanks for answering Leanne, I guess the bottom line might be, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" there certainly needs to be some rules but the critics should apply them lightly. The google definitions at the beginning of this thread seem ok to me, cheers Smile
"apply them lightly" is probably the key -- there are plenty of things that people agree are poetry, but we should be very careful when stating what is not. Might end up with fairly eggy faces in fifty years or so if we're not Smile
That's for sure champ, as they say, change is the only constant in life Smile
I like the definitions written here. I also like the Billy Collins poem. In fact, I was delighted with it the first time I read it.

I don't know who he is - I've never read anything else by him - but I cannot see why, Leanne, you should be thinking nasty thoughts about him.

Why is that?Smile
I have less issues with Collins' poetry (though I don't like it very much) than with his ethos -- it's a long and detailed story, suffice to say, I dislike people who privilege one method of poetry and disparage all others.

But that's neither here nor there when it comes to defining poetry, if such a thing is possible.
Aha, I see. I like Philip Larkin's poetry, but I dislike the man (he was a racist and a mysogynist amongst other things)

As I like this poem very much, I had decided that my poetic sensibilities were worse than I had imagined and I was hoping for reassurance. Which now I have.

The above sounds pathetic, I know. I should be able to decide for myself what is good and bad in poetry - but, I can't. I'm stuck with the old 'I know what I like' method based on the flimsiest of reasons.
this question is in every poetry forum, and it's just as valid in each of them.

how to define poetry. or what is poetry, or how should it 'be'

i think in the main, it's a personal thing to what ever poet is poeting. a little bit like art.
for me it all centres around the poetry form. the grammar and the poetic devices.
poetry is about knowing as much of them as you can and then utilising them with changes, omissions, additions etc.
i just read one of granny's poems in novice with no grammar and it worked. i know she knows grammar i've seen her use it.
the way the poem was written is obvious that she wrote it that way through choice. because of this and her knowledge of a poetic device called enjambment it works.
on many forums i see wouldbe poets who say, i just write how i feel and how i want. i don't care about this and that. it isn't needed. i say stfu and stop being silly. their poetry is often self indulgent rubbish. if it's a choice through lack of knowledge, how can we temper or grade its misuse? how can we know how far to go. i think a poets greatest sin is that of pride or ego. the "i wrote it so it doesn't matter what it looks like cos it's great' syndrome most newbies have. poetry fisrt and foremost is a craft. you can have inherent talent but it's still a craft. it's like bricklaying. being able to build a wall, does not make you an architect. it won't mean you can build a flying buttress or an arched window, it won't mean you know where to place a keystone.
being able to put words together with good syntax is not what makes a good poet, often it's the manipulation of syntax that plays an important role, creativity, imagination, passion, logic, chaos and all the emotions and the ability to transfer them into a poem. poetry is nothing and everything. it is creation. it is a smile from god or a scowl from hell. poetry is the end of you nib, quill, stick in the sand, stroke of a paint brush or curve of an original breast. poetry just is.
Billy, thank you for mentioning me in dispatches. May I request that you cut and paste the end of your impassioned posting, tweak it and create a poem for us all to see.
i wish i had the talent granny. but i'll try given a bit of time. i have the grand kinds screaming at me to play this and that with them. it affects the concentration Big Grin i think a few of the poets on here break rules. they don't abuse the rules as much as misuse them for effect. isn't that how new forms are created. just look at cleave poetry and many others. form creates form and structured chaos if done properly. anyone can stick a monkey in a room and make it type rubbish. to be able to type good rubbish takes some doing. Smile
I don't know what 'cleave' poetry is. Is it worth me finding out?

Actually, I don't think your words need tweaking...all you will have to do is think of the arrangement of your lines - and Bingo, there you are.


ps - yesterday we had William aged 2 (all day) He was poorly...not much creativity going on there for me - apart from thinking of ways to keep him happy and to read 'Everyone hide from Wibbly Pig' about 100 times
hehe.

cleave is one of those love em or leave them styles. thay can be good but they're not my kind of stuff. it's def worth having a google. some of the good stuff which i can't recall isn't half bad.
Imagine where we'd be if Basho et al hadn't got sick of all the formalities of renga and decided they preferred a quickie... or if the Elizabethans had just accepted that a sonnet had to have that Italian format... or if the early free-versers (a misnomer, but one that must serve here and be kept for debate another day Smile) had just said "oh bugger it, I can't make it rhyme so I'll give up"...

We all have preferences, some things that we consider "more poetic" than others, but in essence those are just the things that most resonate with our sensibilities and experiences. For example, I've seen "found poems" that are nothing more than chopped up and re-lined prose without a single poetic device that I recognise, and I resent their being included in the pool that is poetry, but I'm forced to accept that they may be regarded as such. I'm not forced to like them though Smile
Thanks Leanne, billy and grannyjill for your comments, for a lay person like myself they are much appreciated. billy your reply and poem of it put me in mind of R S Thomas' Poetry for Supper
'Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower of immortal beauty.'

'Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
That goes like blood to the poem's making?
Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life's iron crust. Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build Your verse a ladder.'

'You speak as though
No sunlight ever surprised the mind
Groping on its cloudy path.'

'Sunlight's a thing that needs a window
Before it enters a dark room.
Windows don't happen.'

So two old poets,
Hunched at their beer in the low haze
Of an inn parlour, while the talk ran
Noisily by them, glib with prose.
Loved the dialogue poem. I was puzzled by the last line, though. It's not saying that they were surrounded by accidental poetry (which could be the case - some pub talk is full of such things)..but, by ordinary talk...the point being, what? We know that already. Can some-one see what it is I am missing, and help me, please?
I felt that it was Thomas' way of showing the contrast of the noisy glib meaningless pub talk to the more intense poetry arguement, hope that was of some help to you jill, cheers Smile
That does help, thank you. As I grow as a poet I have learned that (unlike myself) successful poets don't simply include lines because they fit, or because they rhyme, or even because they fizzled out - and here I really felt this line was a lost opportunity to say something with a punch. But, I can see more into the line now you've given me your interpretation.
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