It is difficult to have a single definition of poetry that fits all its varying structures, styles, and subject material. A typical dictionary might define poetry as literary composition written in verse with meaning. This simple definition only characterizes poetry on the surface, but there is so much more to poetry than just words. One can never define poetry, however one can make an attempt to describe its properties, function, and characteristics as clearly as possible.
Poetry is an ancient mode of expression. Even before the development of writing, primitive societies achieved poetic interpretations of their religious, historical, and cultural awareness and handed them down to the next generation in hymns, incantations, and narrative poems. Among the many different forms of human expression, poetry has always had a distinctive place. It has always stood apart from all other forms of literature. It is the basis of every branch of literary and artistic expression. That is why we say that novels, paintings, musical compositions and films are poetic. Some modern poets claim that poetry is a way to access the individual and collective unconscious experience of life. A poem may serve a purpose, such as sharing an emotion, teaching a lesson, commenting on society, describing a mood, or conveying any other theme the author wishes. Several authors have written poems giving their own definitions of poetry to expand on that of the dictionary.Order now
Poets use language to express and communicate an idea: to make it tangible in a form that can be shared. In The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, Randall Jarrell illustrates a very grim idea with the last line, When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 720. This line expresses the idea of a very apathetic end to a wasted life. If one is dealing with similar ideas and perspectives, conventional forms of language may not be sufficient to express these new ideas as emphatically. That is why poetry has evolved and taken so many different linguistic forms over the centuries.
Poetry may be distinguished from prose literature in terms of form by its smaller size, by its frequent use of meter and rhyme, by its dependence on the line as a formal unit, by its heightened vocabulary, and by its freedom of syntax. There is also somewhat of a freedom of word order to present a visual image as poets such as e.e.cummings frequently do. There is also a radical distinction between the emotion felt from reading a story and the emotions stimulated by poetry; the former is derived from incident, the latter from the representation of feeling. In poetry, the source of the emotion is the exhibition of human sensibility; in prose, the source is merely a series of outward circumstances. The combination of these two is what renders an author like Shakespeare so generally engaging, each reader finding in him what is suitable to their own taste. To the many he is great as a storyteller and to many others he is a master poet.
The object of poetry is to act upon the emotions. The characteristic emotional content of poetry finds expression through a variety of techniques, from direct description to highly personalized symbolism. One of the oldest and most common of these techniques is the use of metaphor and simile to alter and expand the reader”s imagination through implied or clear comparison. Rainer Maria Rilke presents a good example in lines six and seven of The Panther. ?the movement of his powerful soft strides / is like a ritual dance?767 Thus, by conjuring up pictures or images and by invoking different kinds of associations, the poet elicits his own feeling and consciousness in others. Another thing that differentiates the poet from other writers is not only the focus on mode but on language itself. Thus, poetry can also be described as the art of language.
One significant way that authors exhibit this art is through the use of imagery, which is basically language that triggers your mind to recall and combine images. It compels the reader to fuse together old and new memories or mental pictures of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations of touch. Imagery draws the reader into poetic experiences by touching on images the reader already knows. In the poem The Fish, Elizabeth Bishop writes, ?his brown skin hung in strips? 682 in line ten and,?until everything was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! 684 in line 75. By using such vivid imagery, Bishop tries to draw the reader into imagining and becoming a part of the experience that is being described.
In conclusion, it is my firm belief that while the meaning or definition of poetry can be discussed, debated, and analyzed, it cannot be understood in concrete terms. As individuals, we all try to find echoes and correspondences in the world beyond ourselves, seeking a sign, a direction, a purpose; poetry is a sharing, a way of helping ourselves and each other cope with an often bewildering existence. In its shared traditions we find that we are not alone in our quest to find meaning in our lives. In a world full of unknowns and secrets, poetry becomes a means of survival, a way of coping. Through poetry, one learns to deal with change, to come to terms with joy and grief, and to celebrate the wonder still to be found in the extraordinary energy of daily life. Because of this aspect alone, poetry cannot be limited by definitions. It cannot be communicated or fathomed other than by the use of poetry itself.