Every year, I ask this question! Every year, I understand another nuance of poetry.
Each person has his own definition of poetry but putting a few words together doesn’t make poetry. A poem has a soul, a heart and an emotion. Even a haiku is meaningless without a soul.
However complex or flowery the language, a poem must be meaningful and the value of the words should reach the reader. An ambiguous poem is like an abandoned castle that lacks charm.
I’ve read many such so-called modern poems that lack clarity of thought, also those with multiple interpretations. While the latter earned my admiration, the former continue to teach profound lessons.
I keep returning to quotable definitions to understand poetry and each time I learn something new.
“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” – Carl Sandburg.
I could hear that echo. I have seen the dance of shadows. I’ve embraced those shadows and put them into words.
“It may be said that poems are in one way like icebergs: only about a third of their bulk appears above the surface of the page.” – Howard Nemerov.
The ice never melts and therefore most people avoid poetry. They just touch the surface and don’t wait for a little thaw that waits within the words.
“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley.
This is such a sweet compliment but there is no doubt that poets do try to cheer themselves by blending their sorrows into the words till they sound sweet.
“Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.” – Dennis Gabor.
A poem may not be rhythmic, but the music could be ingrained in the emotions embedded within the words. It would surely reach your heart if you pay attention to them.
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” – William Wordsworth.
A poem without emotions would seem hollow. Poetry is the best form of expressing emotions, as just one metaphor could convey a thousand feelings.
“Poetry is the mother-tongue of the human race.” – Johann Georg Hamann.
Look around and hear the poetry of Mother Nature. We learned all those cadences from her… the rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks, the gurgling waterfalls and all those notes taught us poetry.
“Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.” – Don Marquis.
You can share your own definition. I am eager to hear your thoughts about poetry.
If you like poetry, check my latest book: Magical Whispers