What is Poetry?

Paul Butters By Paul Butters, 4th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1uqoy0.i/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

An exploration of the true nature of poetry. Poets write such a variety of forms and styles. Is any one way the best?

From Free to Lyrical.

I write mostly free verse. Some of my relatives protest, “This isn’t poetry, it does not rhyme!” In reply I feel like saying, “Try E.E. Cummings!” He rhymes at times, but generally he is most unconventional:

“(and i imagine
never mind Joe agreeably cheerfully remarked when
surrounded by fat stupid animals
the Jewess shrieked...”

Note the avoidance of punctuation and capitals (apart from names). My spellchecker corrected this at first! However, for me Cummings still writes good poetry, if disguised.
On the other hand there is the 17th century poet John Dryden. Sorry John, but... In the 6th form we had to study Dryden’s “Absalom and Achitophel”, a long “satirical poem”. Admittedly it was packed with clever stuff including oxymoron, antithesis etc. We took it apart like good mechanics. Yet to me it was not poetry.

Here is a sample of Absalom...:

“In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin
Before polygamy was made a sin;
When man in many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confined...
Heaven punishes the bad and proves the best...
To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise.”

So what is poetry? Well, to me every poem should be a “statement” which somehow expresses the poet’s “vision” and “feeling”. In that excellent book of criticism, “The Critical Sense” (1956), James Reeves described poetry as “magic”. So true. You see a great poem and go, “Ah!” Most poetry is “lyric” or “lyrical”.
Take John Keats for example:
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun...”

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever...”

“Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things
To bind them all about with tiny rings.”

Wow. Beautiful indeed. P.B Shelley is similarly great:

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of
Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.”

Autumn again! I prefer Spring and Summer myself, but these guys make Autumn into a Spring.

W.B. Yeats is no slouch either:
“Those images that yet
Fresh images beget
That dolphin-torn, that gong tormented sea.”

And then there’s G.M. Hopkins:

“I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon...”

Every time I hear people shouting, “Good Morning!” I think of these lines.
I myself am not averse to writing lyrically:

“Delicious eyes of magic fire,
Warm shafts that finger forth a touch
Of Love;
Enticing my desire
To surge through lancing beams
As rolling waves o’erride the ebb,
Which sheens, a mirror of the sky,
Leaves pools of cool tranquillity...
(From “Her Eyes”, by my good self).”

Interesting how I choose to show everyone what I mean. Poetry cannot be quantified or accounted for. It’s about inspirational insight into previously hidden truths. About waking in the night and grabbing your notebook. You just have to write before you forget the idea. I cannot stop writing. It grabs me. Magic indeed.


Dryden, Hopkins, Keats, Magic, Poems, Poetry

Meet the author

author avatar Paul Butters
I am a Writer. Freelance in that I am not employed any more, being retired. I can write more than ever now. Academically I have a B.Ed. Honours Degree in English Literature from Leeds (Huddersfield) University. Taught Secondary (13-18) English in the...(more)

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author avatar mirage
4th Oct 2010 (#)

Paul.....ur absolutely right!!
A poem is the inner feelings and visions of a poet.....no matter its lirical or not,it still
remains a poem as far as it has the poets soul in it.........!!Its worth reading..

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author avatar Denise O
4th Oct 2010 (#)

As I have written to the other poets on wikinut...
I have just really found this wonderful art form and I am
liking it.
Good article.
Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar LOVERME
10th Oct 2010 (#)

i want to asssure you
those who say such things have the least concept
about poetry ...

so what comes from the fathom of ur emotional heart mind and soul,
is bloody well poetry
and i shall stand by uu always .

they didn't read my first 300 poems
now they find time to read 3000
carry on regardless
u r a poet
better than I

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author avatar Retired
20th Oct 2010 (#)

Paul, you def have a way with words and the scary thing is, I understood every word. As Pooh would say, "Oh bother" Looking forward to reading more from you.

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author avatar group2be
5th Nov 2010 (#)

Point well made. So so true. Look forward to reading your future masterpieces.

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author avatar D in The Darling
2nd Dec 2010 (#)

Poetry is poetry in any form; expression of ideas without any hindrances. It comes in different shapes and sizes! Anything else, is just a matter of preference!

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author avatar Paul Butters
2nd Dec 2010 (#)

Thanks everyone for your support, and agreement!

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author avatar hestylim
3rd Dec 2010 (#)

Yes, you are right, poetry is not about rhyming, rhyming and rhyming. I found my poetries isn't rhyming that much and I proud of it.

I think as long as a poetry can touch deep into someone's heart.. It is well-done already..

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author avatar La Verne
4th Dec 2010 (#)

great...yeah poetry is sometimes like a mystery...:)

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