Reflection: Poetry

So, this is a reflection post I’ve been wanting to do for years, but never have been able to.  Why?  One simple question: what is poetry?  It’s difficult to define in words.

Young children who are introduced to poetry think it’s just about rhyme and rhythm.  But while these are common devices in poetry, they’re not always there – think of the haiku.  But the number of syllables doesn’t matter in your quatrain.  And we can’t just say it’s something cryptic that has a deeper meaning – many good prose stories are like that too.

While each form of poetry has a solid definition, and it’s clear whether a given poem is that type or not, it’s difficult to define poetry.  Is it just something you recognize when you see?

It ultimately comes down to this: poetry is a form of writing where the appearance sounds of the words come into play.  In prose, you’re trying to tell the reader something, but in poetry, you’re more focused on telling them something in a way that sounds beautiful when spoken.  Or scary, or whatever…even if you don’t know what the words mean.  It may not be a perfect definition, but it’s the best I can do for a topic as abstract as poetry.

When I write poetry (though I haven’t done much lately), I do tend to think more about how it sounds than I do with my stories, and I tend to be more cryptic.  To differentiate, in prose, I focus more on the definition of a word, while in poetry, I focus on the sounds.  In both, though, I consider the deeper meanings of said word.

I may tell a story too, like I did with The Beast (read it here), or I may just be describing something, like I did with My Desk (read it here).  But usually, the subject matter of a poem is a lot simpler and more abstract than a book (except, of course, epic poetry).

But even these rules may not apply.  I’ve seen works that are clearly poems, but don’t seem quite as rhythmic or beautiful as most poems.  Does poetry in general even have any rules?  Do you just know it when you see it?

And how would you define poetry?  Can it even be defined?  I’d really like to hear some thoughts on the matter.

For now, though, White Rakogis is signing off!

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