What is poetry?

What exactly is ‘poetry’? What marks it out as being different from other kinds of writings, e.g. prose? How do you distinguish poetry from prose?

Why did we come up with it? Why didn’t we just stick to prose to express ourselves?

Sorry to flood with questions. I’m interested in reading how you would respond to these questions that puzzle writers, poets, literary critics, philosophers, and all concerned with literature for centuries. Thank you.

Three answers I have heard:

“Poetry is words which do not reach the end of the page.”

“Poetry elicits an image.”

“Poetry (or is that literature) is a concrete universal.”

My best definition of poetry is that it is a knot. There is a beginning and end to the rope, but somewhere inbetween it gets all tied up. You stare at it, transfixed as the constrained, motionless brown snakes slither about your creative input centers. It crawls below the words, hinting at something more but it is really just the complexity of the knot. Poetry is meant to be the most concise, and so the most… universally stimulating and, consequently, the most unclear.

You may find a moral or a message, but if the poem is good you will find many, or perhaps simply fall to reality with a giggle, puzzled.

A whitty saying
proves nothing
Voltaire proves to say


It is just after hunger,
and sleep,…
It is with rhyme just before reason.
In fact, it is rhymed

There is no line between poetry and prose. And Iambic Pentameter is a myth…


Why is it possible to do art and comedy on drugs, but not philosophy?


Iambic pentameter a myth?
In the words of the man who was asked if he believed in infant baptism:
Good man, believe in it? Why I’ve seen it!

When did I assert you can’t?

Or is that a jab at me :cry:

“…Iambic Pentameter is a myth…”–someoneisatthedoor (cool name BTW)

Maybe for the ancient Greeks who had it imposed upon them, but not for us. For us I believe it to be a reality. As evidence for a consensus of modern acceptance I provide my own and Tupac’s in his reference to Iambic Pentameter in “Tupac Resurrection”. :smiley:

art and comedy (evidence):
Coleridge, Dillon, Saturday Night Live (original cast)

Philosophy (evidence):
yes, it was a jab at you, you colourfully-metaphored theorist, you
(or should i just say “knot-so”?) :stuck_out_tongue:

…No offence intended; just playing. :-({|=



I am what I am.

Keep in mind this entertainment for me. Instead of vegging to TV I talk while staying in my mind (beautiful really). If I wanted I could switch to J2 mode and actually ‘discuss’ contemporary philosophical issues (although not to his level if precision) but, to be honest I don’t find it all that entertaining. I’m a philosophy student… I do enough of that already and I don’t like my ‘paper’ voice as years of cruising on my own natural abilities have left it rolling its eyes at nearly everything it’s forced to pronounce.

It was either English or Philosophy and I thought philosophy would be a better undergrad choice in the longrun. I hope I was right :smiley:

Can you double-major?

I could have if I had known exactly what I wanted to do when I first entered Uni, but I didn’t really ‘find myself’ until after my second year, I’ve changed quite a bit since I graduated high school, it’s funny looking back just a couple of years how much I’ve changed, but also how much it seems like this change was coming all along. Plus with playing varsity sports for 4 years (something I don’t regret in the least), I just opted for a single undergrad major. I’m still going to grad school…

Heh, it’s funny with all the great thinkers on this site I feel so intimidated that it’s sort of unconsciously pushed me into the type of lifestyle where I continually try to ‘catch up’ in the more juvenile sense of the word. The world is just another game…

This site has helped me… beyond words, in terms of intellectual growth/vigor. Especially some of the older threads. Back when some of us were a bit dumber, but still had the energy :wink:

Thanks, I invented it myself

Ah, I suppose I should have been clearer. I don’t mean that there’s no such thing as iambic pentameter, some stuff is written with that rhythmic structure. I meant that there are a lot of works which clearly aren’t written in that way that are taken to be written in the way so that literary types can stand around smiling and drinking and reinforcing their ivory towers with boring, poorly applied critical models. By ‘myth’ I mean a tale repeated as though it were universally applicable that is often totally at odds with its application. It’s a Barthesian term.

Yeah, snobs obsequi-ize things they don‘t understand wanting to appear greater than others. I think they believe wrongly that no one else can have a different understanding of these things than they.

And there was I thinking it was a bastardization of Emu’s All Live Pink Windmill Show. I thought you might be Rod Hull’s son. I have lost all respect for you now :wink:

Hey, great question. It have been puzzling me for a [relatively] long time now.
Someone great once said that writing in verse is the same as following the plow in a rythm of waltz.
I wouldn’t agree with it. I guess it’s just human’t striving for “estetics”. It also goes along with music. Product of intelligence…
And, aslo, verse is often more easy to remember, makes more impression. Exeptions only support the rule.

It usually boggles my mind when someone says something like this. My first thought is that such comments are usually in reference to Milton (and following him, the Romantics) and simply a misunderstanding of the term itself.

But isn’t that your point?

Iambic pentameter is not a rule, nor does it contribute to a definition of poetry. It is a description of a kind of rhythm in the same way that 4/4 time is a description.

The myth, if I understand you rightly, is that many people see it as something you have to do in order to do poetry or that a good poem must follow that particular du duh perfectly in order to, you know, be a real poem.

That’s a mistake.

poetry is hip-hop without a beat and without an ego.

Prose is language given over to music.

Poetry is music given over to language.


I should have argued: “Iambic pentameter clearly exists, as it is written in by both W. Shakespeare, A. Pope, and me.” :wink:

That said, let me say that I greatly admire those who can write what is clearly moving poetry without any definite rhyme or set rhythm scheme – I don’t know how they do it, flying without wings.