What can YOU say in six sentences?
What is poetry to you? For discussion puposes, let's start with the definitions below:
Poetry and poems defined:
a. the expression of thoughts and emotions in words whose rhythm tends toward uniformity, rather than variety (paraphrased from Clement Wood)
b. “Poetry is the material out of which poems are made.” “memorable words-in-cadence which move and excite me emotionally.” Dylan Thomas
c. “not the thing said, but the way of saying it” A. E. Housman
d. “Poetry is a way of thought—non-intellectual, anti-decorative thought at that—rather than art.” Robert Graves
e. “a language of compressed expression and strong effect” Buck Ramsey
f. “the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning.” Dana Gioia
g. A poem is a completed act of poetry. (Andy Wilkinson)
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Leonard Cohen
A poem...begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness...it finds the thought and the thought finds the words. Robert Frost
A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman. Wallace Stevens
Making use of common language uncommonly. Bill Kloefkorn
...let [the rubbish bins of the old anthologies] be full of the poems that talk about a thing in terms of something else. And let our poems be about the something. Dylan Thomas
poetry is what happens to me when i read it: i see it clearly, feel it, hear it, stand on it, fall under it, come beside it--all because of "words!" someone experienced something (a thought, a moment, a dream, anything! could be highbrow or let's do it in the road) and they carry it around for hours or a lifetime, but they HAVE to write it down, and maybe they share it. "it" is the poem, and it's what happens to us when we read it. glad you asked... just found this:
"To write is to leave the world's surface, to descend under the sea; the smallest pencil is my tuba" -- Alain Borer
Great reply. Great additional quote. YEAHHH!!!
And then there is this waiting in my wings, almost as if they miss the flapping awkwardness of getting off the ground, the effort and struggle to leave the dirt and comfort of earth, but I am not sure they remember the soaring.
And then there is this feeling of fins and gills, as if I should rest on the bottom of the ocean for a bit with its weight as my blanket and its roar as my song.
And then there are these phantom claws growing from my fingertips aching to dig into the rich damp earth and burrow deeper and get soil in all my crevices so that I might taste from whence I came.
And then there are these words...
And then there is, in the back of my throat, the smell of cum and blended juices and night.
And then there are these shimmering scales and iridescent feathers and silky hairs that catch the light and throw it firmly back into the day.
I snuggle down into my ordinary skin.
Perhaaaaaps... too much information???? Though coated in maple syrup is always a good thing...Right?
I know I have posted this before, but I love it.
"Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no hapiness like mine.
I have been eating poems." - Mark Strand
Of all the quotes Cita posted (great research, by the way), the one that comes closest to my definition of poetry is the one by Bill Kloefkorn: Making use of common language uncommonly.
A professor of mine opened a book of poems and read aloud The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins and I was ab-so-lute-ly blown away. But the poem is too hard to love when you read it on the page. It has to be listened to. So to your definition of poetry, I would add a category for those poems that the ear loves but the eyes do not.
I am glad you brought this up, Gita. The poetry gatherings I go to are in honor of poetry (and song) as an oral tradition, with a purpose to keeping alive a history and story of the culture. They are very much in the tradition of Henry Herbert Knibbs and Robert Service, poets whose work is much more accessible and enjoyable when performed rather than read. Very few poets at our gatherings READ. Most of them are firmly entrenched in the oral performance tradition... Hence, many of the poets are often songwriters are often poets are often songwriters are often confused about where they belong.
I adore the Mark Strand poem and have it on the wall of my office.
Small note about the research to give credit where credit is due: I asked my editor "what is poetry." I was asking for his opinion since my new collection of essays is going to have sixes, poems, and shorts scattered through it as texture (and fairy dust). He responded with the above research that he passes out to his Poetry 101 classes... though he and I have had many delicious debates about the subject. Sometimes they spin off into... nonsense. Like when I asked him recently if a poem wasn't a distillation of something down to its very essence... like scotch or vanilla extract. An extraction. He said yes to the scotch but no to the vanilla. Too sweet. I had to point out that the best way to make vanilla extract was to put real vanilla beans in pure rum and let the alcohol extract the essence of the beans. I told him vanilla extract is not sweet at all... for him to go into his kitchen cupboard and rub a little of it on his gums and see what I mean. Then we had a discussion about "shame on you" for having artificial vanilla in his cabinet!!! You should take a road trip with us. Exhausting the directions our conversations go.
Cita, conversations like that irritate me beyond tolerance -- not the poetry part, but the train of thought jumping the track before one idea is even given a chance. It reminds me of a lawn sprinkler that sprays in one direction and instantly swings back in another. Or trying to talk to a meth user. Best that you never take me on a car ride with your editor!
But concerning the oral poetry tradition, it goes back even further to the Greeks (as I understand it). Poets had to also be real orators because poems were "published" first in performance and if they became popular, were later distributed in manuscript form. I'll try someday to read you The Windhover aloud, if I can.
i don't know when the "poetry" part came in, the lyrical or dramatic. but yeah, like you're saying, back in the day, this is how battles and important/historic things were remembered--orally--and passed down. who could write? very few. but celtic bards were on the battlefield (just like the greeks!) remembering (is that the best word?) what happened there, and later would tell the tale. (best tale gets the ale!) ; ) they say that's how beowulf became the story it is today, because small grains of moments or heroic acts that became larger than life... beowulf is filled with stuff that doesn't much relate to the story, but it was a way for the peeps to remember the names and acts, moments that were grains of salt but HOLY COW he slew a giant? you better believe it. :-)
@Lapham: I love that you went to the trouble to find the oral version, even though I thought the reader was way too soft and gentle for the powerful soaring language. I didn't hear the wind in his voice. But again, thank you.
Thank you for the audio link, Bill. I enjoyed the oral reading of the poem very much - much more than I did my own silent reading of it.
I think poetry is writing that is strongly enhanced by being read aloud, which (I am sure) means a lot of prose is poetry at the same time. All the quotes you provided are good definitions of poetry, too. Not sure any one of them rings more true or more comprehensive than the others. Perhaps that is a definition of poetry in itself - that it is many different things, all at once.
One characteristic of a lot of poetry is its hefty density, and its requirement that the reader be able to discern what is not being said. I struggle with most poetry because of this, and I don't mind admitting that the poem Bill provided was almost completely lost on me. The rhythm, and the echoing vowels, and the alliteration were all beautiful - but I don't really know what the poem was about.
Somebody give me a clue. :)
Thank you, Bill. I worry a lot over my ability to read critically. I appreciate your reassurance.