What is Poetry?
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Poetry is an art form in which language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. It consists largely of oral or literary works in which language is used in a manner that is felt by its user and audience to differ from ordinary prose. It may use condensed or compressed form to convey emotion or ideas to the reader's or listener's mind or ear; it may also use devices such as assonance and repetition to achieve musical or incantatory effects. Poems frequently rely for their effect on imagery, word association, and the musical qualities of the language used. Because of its nature of emphasizing linguistic form rather than using language purely for its content, poetry is notoriously difficult to translate from one language into another.

Nature of poetry

Poetry can be differentiated most of the time from prose, which is language meant to convey meaning in a more expansive and less condensed way, frequently using more complete logical or narrative structures than poetry does. A further complication is that prose poetry combines the characteristics of poetry with the superficial appearance of prose. And there is, of course, narrative poetry, not to mention dramatic poetry, both of which are used to tell stories and so resemble novels and plays. However, both these forms of poetry use the specific features of verse composition to make these stories more memorable or to enhance them in some way.

The Greek verb poieo (I make or create), gave rise to 3 words: poietis (the one who creates), poiesis (the act of creation), and poiema (the thing created). From these we get three English words: poet (the creator), poesy (the creation) and poem (the created). A poet is therefore one who creates, and poetry is what the poet creates. The underlying concept of the poet as maker or creator is not uncommon. For example, in Anglo-Saxon a poet is a scop (shaper or maker) and in Scots makar.

Sound in poetry

Perhaps the most vital element of sound in poetry is rhythm. Often the rhythm of each line is arranged in a particular meter. Different types of meter played key roles in Classical, Early European, Eastern and Modern poetry. In the case of free verse, the rhythm of lines is often organized into looser units of cadence.

Poetry in English and other modern European languages often uses rhyme. Rhyme at the end of lines is the basis of a number of common poetic forms such as ballads, sonnets and rhyming couplets. However, the use of rhyme is not universal. Much modern poetry, for example, avoids traditional rhyme schemes. Furthermore, Classical Greek and Latin poetry did not use rhyme. In fact, rhyme did not enter European poetry at all until the High Middle Ages, when it was adopted from the Arabic language. The Arabs have always used it extensively.

Alliteration played a key role in structuring early Germanic and English forms of poetry (called Alliterative verse), akin to the role of rhyme in later European poetry.

The alliterative patterns of early Germanic poetry and the rhyme schemes of Modern European poetry alike both include meter as a key part of their structure which determines when the listener expects instances rhyme or alliteration to occur. In this sense, both alliteration and rhyme when used in poetic structures help to emphasize and define a rhythmic pattern.

In addition to forms of rhyme, alliteration and rhythm that structure poetry, sound plays a subtle role in even free verse poetry in creating pleasing, varied patterns and emphasizing or sometimes even illustrating semantic elements of the poem. Devices such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, dissonance and internal rhyme are among the ways poets use sound.

Poetry and form

As it is created using language, poetry tends to use formal linguistic units like phrases, sentences and paragraphs. In addition, it uses units of organization that are purely poetic. The main units that are used are the line, the couplet, the strophe, the stanza, and the verse paragraph.

Lines may be self-contained units of sense, as in the famous To be, or not to be: that is the question. Alternatively a line may end in mid-phrase or sentence: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The linguistic unit is generally completed in the next line: The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This technique is called enjambment, and is used to create a sense of expectation in the reader and/or to add a dynamic to the movement of the verse.

Couplets, stanzas, and strophes are generally self-contained units of sense, although a kind of enjambment may also be used across these units. In blank verse, verse paragraphs are employed to indicate natural breaks in the flow of the poem.

In many instances, the effectiveness of a poem derives from the tension between the use of linguistic and formal units. With the advent of printing, poets gained greater control over the visual presentation of their work. As a result, the use of these formal elements, and of the white space they help create, became an important part of the poet's toolbox. Modernist poetry tends to take this to an extreme, with the placement of individual lines or groups of lines on the page forming an integral part of the poem's composition. In its most extreme form, this leads to the writing of concrete poetry.

Poetry and rhetoric

Rhetorical devices such as simile & metaphor are frequently used in poetry. Or, maybe more accurately, rhetorics has learned these powerful ways of forging connections outside logical reasoning from poetry. Indeed, Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. However, particularly since the rise of Modernism, many poets have opted for reduced use of these devices, preferring rather to attempt the direct presentation of things and experiences.

The history of poetry

Poetry as an art form predates literacy. In pre-literate societies, poetry was frequently employed as a means of recording oral history, storytelling (epic poetry), genealogy, law and other forms of expression or knowledge that modern societies might expect to be handled in prose. Poetry is also often closely identified with liturgy in these societies, as the formal nature of poetry makes it easier to remember priestly incantations or prophecies. The greater part of the world's sacred scriptures are made up of poetry rather than prose.

Some writers believe that poetry has its origins in song. Most of the characteristics that distinguish it from other forms of utterance - rhythm, rhyme, compression, intensity of feeling, the use of refrains - appear to have come from efforts to fit words to musical forms. However, in the European tradition the earliest surviving poems, the Homeric and Hesiodic epics, identify themselves as poems to be chanted to a musical accompaniment rather than as pure song. Another interpretation, developed from 20th century studies of living Montenegran epic reciters by Milman Parry and others, is that rhythm, refrains, and kennings are essentially paratactic devices that enable the reciter to reconstruct the poem from memory.

In preliterate societies, all these forms of poetry were composed for, and sometimes during, performance. As such, there was a certain degree of fluidity to the exact wording of poems, given this could change from one performance or performer to another. The introduction of writing tended to fix the content of a poem to the version that happened to be written down and survive. Written composition also meant that poets began to compose not for an audience that was sitting in front of them but for an absent reader. Later, the invention of printing tended to accelerate these trends. Poets were now writing more for the eye than for the ear.

The development of literacy gave rise to more personal, shorter poems intended to be sung. These are called lyrics, which derives from the Greek lura or lyre, the instrument that was used to accompany the performance of Greek lyrics from about the 7th century BC onward. The Greek's practice of singing hymns in large choruses gave rise, in the 6th century BC to dramatic verse, and to the practice of writing poetic plays for performance in their theatres.

In more recent times, the introduction of electronic media and the rise of the poetry reading have led to a resurgence of performance poetry and have resulted in a situation where poetry for the eye and poetry for the ear coexist, sometimes in the same poem.

Verse forms

  • Ballad
  • Ballade royal
  • Blank verse
  • Chant royal
  • Cinquain
  • Clerihew
  • Couplet
  • Double dactyl
  • Dramatic poetry
  • Elegy
  • Englyn
  • Envoi
  • Epic
  • Epigram
  • Epyllion
  • Free verse
  • Ghazal
  • Grook
  • Haiku
  • Haibun
  • Heroic couplets
  • Kimo
  • Kyrielle
  • Light Poetry
  • Limerick
  • Lyric
  • McWhirtle
  • Narrative poetry
  • Nonsense verse
  • Ode
  • Ottava rima
  • Paradelle
  • Pantun
  • Quatrain
  • Quatorzain
  • Renga
  • Rhyme royal
  • Rondeau
  • Rubaiyat
  • Sapphics
  • Senryu
  • Sestina
  • Sijo
  • Song
  • Sonnet
  • SymmyS
  • Tanka
  • Tercet
  • Terza rima
  • Villanelle
  • Virelai ancien
  • Virelai nouveau

Periods, styles and movements

  • Acrostic
  • Alliterative verse
  • Automatic poetry
  • British Poetry Revival
  • Chanson de geste
  • Concrete poetry
  • Digital poetry
  • Epitaph
  • Erasure poetry
  • Found poetry
  • Imagism
  • Medieval poetry
  • Minnesinger
  • Modernist
  • Modernist poetry
  • The Movement
  • Objectivist
  • Parnassian
  • Pastoral
  • Performance poetry
  • Post-modernist
  • San Francisco Renaissance
  • Sound poetry
  • Symbolism
  • Troubador
  • Trouvère

Technical means

  • Accent
  • Accentual verse
  • Aleatory methods
  • Alliteration
  • Anacrusis
  • Aposiopesis
  • Assonance
  • Cæsura
  • Chain rhyme
  • Consonance
  • Dissonance
  • Enjambment
  • Foot
  • Half rhyme
  • Eye rhyme
  • Kennings
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Rhyme
  • Rhyme scheme
  • Rhythm
  • Sprung Rhythm
  • Stichomythia
  • Syllabic verse

Measures of verse


Types of metre

Types of line

  • Amphibrach
  • Anapaest
  • Choreus
  • Dactyl
  • Dibrach
  • Iamb
  • Pyrrhic
  • Spondee
  • Tribrach
  • Trochee
  • Monometer
  • Dimeter/couplet
  • Trimeter
  • Tetrameter
  • Pentameter
  • Hexameter/Alexandrine
  • Heptameter
  • Octameter
  • Poulter's measure
  • Metaphor

  • Simile

  • Irony

  • Metonymy

  • Synecdoche

  • Ellipsis

English Poetry

Rajiv's Poetry

Rajiv's Haiku

Above article originally from Wikipedia. The text on above article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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