My own definition of poetry

December 1, 2010

In response to the various definitions of poetry listed, I like how she created a discussion through many voices.  I think a definition needs to act more like a discussion.  This is the discussion that’s been going on in my head since last Tuesday:

I was thinking about the desk in combs 111 that people have been drawing on for years.  I looked at it and wondered if it could be poetry–it has some poems on it, as well as drawings and thoughts and, yes, it includes several references to Trogdor.  The desk is a brainstorm of expression.  I do not think it is poetry.  Poetry can be a result of refined and revised expression, but they are not one in the same.

Poetry is often taken to be art in general.  This takes meaning away from the craft of poetry as society accepts all individuals as poets and diminishes the art and skill that goes into this specific genre.  Poetry, in the sense of a specific form of art, fills a gap between prose/regular speech and image or musical art.  It plays with some of the same ideas as those genres as it utilizes rhythm, like music, or plays with word structure to form pictures or to give ideas through the physicality of the words as they stand (chiasmus, or cutting stanzas in half to show brokenness, etc.)

Poetry also uses language to surpass the limitations of language.  Elliot took the stance that to discuss poetry would diminish its meaning, for there is no way to show what a line does except for to quote that line.  Language takes away from poetry if it tries to describe it, just as it would take away from music or an emotional, supernatural, or epiphany moment.  Poetry moves something in us that goes deeper than language.  If done right—this eliminates Wordsworth, as he was appropriately named—uses all of the arts: musical, imagistic, and linguistic, to create meaning.  It eliminates words that we need for regular speech or prose, understanding their meaning in the line without their inclusion, and it does not always claim meaning outright, creating a thought process based on ambiguity to convey meaning and to move something in the reader, without explicit definition.  Music and artwork to the same thing, but they do not use words to do so.  It can also tell stories, like prose, conveying meaning without stating the meaning—leaving language no room to distort it while utilizing words to enable it.  It is not that poetry is a better art than the others—it is just an intrinsically transitory art that uses elements from all of the other forms.

Individuals who do not abide by this, believing that poetry is just expression, violate the art.  They are guilty like people who write songs with lyrics that do not match the emotion of the musicality, e.g. Hoobastank and their song Lucky that employs extremely passionate and angst-filled melodies(?) to convey a meaningless and empty song about a guy who feels lucky around some girl that left him.  Poetry is a difficult craft that requires meaning.  It is a craft that requires the ability to convey something without being able to define it with words—it surpasses language with language.

…and poetry can give chills (I always think of Bishop’s “The Art of Losing”).  I don’t know why, but I just needed to say that too haha.

So I guess, difinitively, Poetry is a category of art that can mix with other arts to form a mixed media, but it has clear boundaries that separates it from others.

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