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What makes it a poem?


I know you learned people have contemplated this before; but I have been wondering. What makes it a poem? What is the criteria to differentiate poetry from wandering words, surreal narrative, prose in fancy format, doggerel, sappy greeting card rhyme, song lyric, random thought spurts, or other kinds of expressed language?

I like in my expressions of thought to have form follow function. Poetry is to say more elegantly, beautifully, concisely, evocatively those ideas, images, impressions, stories that are too subtle, complex, emotionally charged, uncomfortable, confused or inchoate to be adequately addressed within the rules of prose. Poetry can be about breaking rules or adhering to strict structures, or finding the metalanguage that breaks codes of mundane communication.

What do you think?
Sep/19/2010, 11:49 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: What makes it a poem?


hi Libra,

All of the above(?)

Mostly lately, in workshops especially, I want to know what makes a poem according to the writer; the better to know what the writer is aiming for--or where the writer is coming from.

It helps to know what my own preferences and biases are too--so I don't reject out-of-hand that which does not conform.

My latest metaphor for poetry is dark matter. The way visible bodies orbit dark matter, indicating its size, shape, location; its gravitational pull. So maybe a poem is a similar configuration of words, orbiting dark matter, indicating its presence and gravitational pull.

Chris

Last edited by Christine98, Sep/20/2010, 12:38 pm
Sep/20/2010, 12:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: What makes it a poem?


Hi Libra,

What makes it a poem? I thought I knew, once upon a time. Now it almost seems like anything goes. Poetry in the eye of the beholder.

I like your definition:

I like in my expressions of thought to have form follow function. Poetry is to say more elegantly, beautifully, concisely, evocatively those ideas, images, impressions, stories that are too subtle, complex, emotionally charged, uncomfortable, confused or inchoate to be adequately addressed within the rules of prose. Poetry can be about breaking rules or adhering to strict structures, or finding the metalanguage that breaks codes of mundane communication.

But, as Chris pointed out, we all have our own preferences and biases, which influence both what we write and how we read. I went to the library today and checked out some poetry: books by Naomi Shihab Nye, Molly Peacock, C. D. Wright and, to expand my horizons, "American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry," and "The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History." Not sure what I will make/take from the latter two. Mainly hoping I don't get sucked into a black hole.

Sep/30/2010, 1:50 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


Oh yes, Libra. The perennial question never definetivly answered. I thought I had it right once. Taking from the poet, E.A. Housman, I said this: Poetry is neither complaint, comment, or consolation. It is a seizure and a shiver. Which is right enough, but still not enough. Another time I said poetry involved a holy trinity: tension, gestalt of form, and kinetic energy. Also right enough and still not enough. And I agree with Housman on another point. In its inception poetry is less an intellectual and more a physical production. One that produces a physical response (I say that, noit him.) On that point at least I am certain.

When I first met up with the on line poetry community I was frequently asked to judge contests. My motive was shameless, being flattered. I soon realized I needed to do the impossible. I needed to make judging objective. And so I developed a criteria for making my selections. It ran this way:

Rhythm line, meaning, image impact, the shiver or seizure, metrical patterning, (poetic) grammar, metaphor - energy packet, idea bodied out, kinetics of the thing, threshold experience, authentic language, texture, transformative action, tension, gestalt of form.

I guess I still keep to these notions, especially to the holy trinity. I also extrapolate on something Hopkins said. He said every thing, animate and inanimate, has two properties: inscape (an inner landscape) and instress (internal tension keeping all parts together). I decided that since poetry too is a thing it must also have these two properties. And it seems to me the successful poem in fact does. But nowadays all my notions are less parametering than blips on a radar screen.

So keep to what you say above. That works too.

Tere
Oct/2/2010, 2:00 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


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What is Poetry?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poetry (from the Greek 'poiesis'/ποίησις [poieo/ποιέω], a making: a forming, creating, or the art of poetry, or a poem) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns, lyrics, or prose poetry. It is published in dedicated magazines (the longest established being Poetry and Oxford Poetry), individual collections and wider anthologies.
Poetry has a long history, dating back to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. The earliest poems evolved from folk songs, such as the Chinese Shijing, or from the need to retell oral epics, such as the SanskritVedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Odyssey and the Iliad. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song, and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively informative, prosaic forms of writing, such as manifestos, biographies, essays, and novels . From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally labeled as a fundamental creative act using language.

Poetry primarily is governed by idiosyncratic forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism,irony, and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, metaphor, simile, and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres, responding to the characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe,Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as being written in lines based upon rhyme and regular meter, there are traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other methodologies to create rhythm and euphony. Much of modern British and American poetry is to some extent a critique of poetic tradition, playing with and testing (among other things) the principle of euphony itself, to the extent that sometimes it deliberately does not rhyme or keep to set rhythms at all. In today'sglobalized world poets often borrow styles, techniques and forms from diverse cultures and languages.

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Jul/24/2011, 8:43 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


Good. Thank you for bringing the thread forward with the Wiki article. But I'll bet a dollar on a donut that you, like me, find the description lacking. Probably the nature of poetry is undefinable, a circumstance not likely to stop the attempt at definition.

Upthread I mention A.E. Housman's attempt at a definition. He gave this famous lecture at Cambridge called The Name and Nature of Poetry. The date was 9 May, 1933. He was a Classics scholar by profession. At the time best known for a collection of poetry written before the turn of the century called The Shropshire Lad It was a popular collection, especially during WW 1, largely because it spoke to an idyll generally understood to have become a casualty of the war. Then he went silent for almost four decades.

When the announcement was made that he would give his lecture everybody who was anybody in London's literary world made their way up to Cambridge. The hall was packed. It was an SRO performance. I just noticed my copy of the lecture was, in fact, published the same year it was delivered. 1933. It has one of those old book plates people used to put inside the cover. Seems it once belonged to a Mason's Lodge somewhere in South Dakota. How times have changed.

The lecture is all of 50 pages long and mostly forgettable. But then, page 45, Housman slips his audience the micky.

"Poetry indeed seems to me more physical than intellectual. A year or two ago, in common with others, I received from America a request that I would define poetry. I replied that I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat, but that I thought we both recognized the object by the symptoms which it provokes in us. One of these symptons was described in connexion with another object by Eliphaz the Temanite: 'A spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up.' Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because, if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act. This particular symptom is accompanied by a shiver down the spine; there is another which consists in a constriction of the throat and a precipitation of water to the eyes; and there is a third which I can only describe by borrowing a phrase from one of Keats's last letters, where he says, speaking of Fanny Brawne, 'everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear.' The seat of this sensation is the pit of the stomach."

In the next paragraph he talks about the production of poetry. "In short I think the production of poetry, in its first stage, is less an active than a passive and involuntary process; and if I were obliged, not to define poetry, but to name the class of things to which it belongs, I should call it a secretion; whether a natural secretion, like turpentine in the fir, or a morbid secretion, like the pearl in the oyster."

There it is. Housman on the nature of poetry. A Classics scholar, most likely gay, belonging to the priveliged of a then Imperialistic nation, and a white man. But for Whitman's I have not found a better non-definition of poetry speaking to my instinct and experience of the nature of poetry. The nature of poetry is a key phrase for me. It suggests a taxonomy of sorts: the naming of an animal, a plant, even a beast.

I know I keep bringing up these old, dead poets whose bodies are no longer even putrid, but dust. Someone is going to have to point me in the direction of a living poet who speaks to my body the same way, since, I ain't finding them.

Tere
Jul/24/2011, 10:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


Libra, you've kept this thread going. I am not going to move it without your permission. But I think it would get more attention, attention it deserves, in Discussion I.

Tere
Jul/24/2011, 10:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


Whatever you think, Tere. I am not attached.
Jul/24/2011, 11:16 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


With Libra's permission, thread moved here from Salon Chat. A thread deserving more focused attention.

It is an excellent question actually. Less because there is a definitive answer. There is not. But because it forces both poet and poetry reader to make certain examinations. Yeah. That is the thing.

Tere
Jul/24/2011, 11:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: What makes it a poem?


from another venue:

art evolves along with the culture it serves
a more diverse world expects less adherence to classical structure -- yet such structure is still part of the club of possible expressions
Poetry is making art of words
Mar/9/2012, 12:04 am Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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