Ars Poetica

In essence, poetry has no definition.  It is a pure form of human expression, yet it has no essential focus.  It can reflect anything, with any purpose.  It can have an excessively organized structure that sometimes even dictates the theme of the poem, as in Haiku and Tanka, two common forms of poetry from Japan.   On the other hand, it could have absolutely no structure, and simply be a free-form glob of expression, emotion or story.  As towards its subject, this is once again vague.  An open definition intentionally limits what the poem can express in absolutely no way.  Many poets choose to use poetry to express their emotions, whether this is love, hate or just about anything in between.  In essence, poetry is simply an artist’s creative way of sharing what he thinks.

Poetry lasts as an advanced art form of the past, often in the form of epics from Ancient Greece and Rome.  Poets at the time used it to record lore from their culture’s mythology and oral culture in a compilation that would entertain for generations, yet hopefully be attributed to them.  They might not have intended for it to be this way, but these poems became the legacy of their civilization today, over 2,000 years later.  Poetry continues to be this way.  Poems we write in a preservable format today will remain past our own lives, and will serve to inform future generations of the way we thought, functioned and processed various types of information in this day and age.  Such an example was presented by Mr. Claesson in that he found his great-grandfather’s poetry journal in an attic and read it.  By reading it, he was exposed to how his relative felt and thought at this time, and, being in English, how he perceived the changing world of the time.  From simply reading this poetry, he learned very much.

Analyzing poetry, as described by Billy Collins in his poem Introduction to Poetry, is much like analyzing artifacts from ancient cultures.  Billy Collins describes how his students only try to find meaning in a poem by “[tying] the poem to a chair with rope and [torturing] a confession out of it.”  He instead suggests many ways to experience it differently and analyze it from unique angles, such as “[holding] it up to the light,” and “[waterskiing] across the surface of a poem.”  This is just how, when analyzing the said artifacts, one must think outside of one’s own culture and preset mindset and make guesses as to what the artifacts to represent or be outside of what they do in one’s own culture.  The key to poetry is having a unique angle that is different from everything that surrounds it, so as to represent the author as a distinct individual.  This is what causes a poem to be powerful or memorable in its own way.

When an artist who is creative in that he or she truly thinks outside of the mindset crafted over their lifetime writes a poem with a unique perspective, the result is a piece that can be utterly unique and different, yet is still poetry.  It can be purely meaningless, with its only purpose being to entertain, or it can have deep meaning in each and every word, though this may not have intentionally been done by the author.  It can be truly “palpable,” as many individuals describe poetry, or it can have no connection whatsoever to the existing world, and thus be ambiguous or indefinite in its meaning.  In essence, poetry has no definition.


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