08
March
2016

What is poetry?

When I considered this question, I realised that it is far from easy to answer. Imagine how much more difficult it might be for our learners who generally have far less experience with the genre that we have.

As I often do, I turned to Mr Google where I stumbled upon a website that drew many important constructs together succinctly. Let’s see what they have to say …

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings"; Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry" and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing."

So what is poetry?

Perhaps the characteristic most central to the definition of poetry is its unwillingness to be defined, labelled, or nailed down.

One of the most definable characteristics of the poetic form is economy of language. Poets are miserly and unrelentingly critical in the way they dole out words to a page. Carefully selecting words for conciseness and clarity is standard, even for writers of prose, but poets go well beyond this, considering a word's emotive qualities, its musical value, its spacing, and yes, even its spacial relationship to the page.

One may use prose to narrate, describe, argue, or define. There are equally numerous reasons for writing poetry. But poetry, unlike prose, often has an underlying and over-arching purpose that goes beyond the literal. Poetry is evocative. It typically evokes in the reader an intense emotion: joy, sorrow, anger, catharsis, love... Alternatively, poetry has the ability to surprise the reader with an Ah Ha! Experience – revelation, insight, further understanding of elemental truth and beauty.

Read more: http://contemporarylit.about.com/od/poetry/a/poetry.htm

You will find a free worksheet on our website that addresses the question ‘What is poetry?’ which can be used with your junior (GET) learners.

Have fun!

Categories: Lesson Ideas

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