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Poetry: Definition & Explanation

Updated on December 21, 2015
What is Poetry?
What is Poetry? | Source

Definition of Poetry

The word poetry has been derived from the Greek word poietra, which means making. The word poietes is the maker or the person who makes something. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, poetry means the quality of producing feelings. But keeping the Greek source of the word in view, we can say that poetry is the art of creating something ideal, higher and noble as it is the result of feelings, emotions and imagination, which are superior human qualities.

Poetry has been defined variously by various people. Doctor Johnson says that poetry is a metrical composition. To Lord Macaulay, poetry is the art of doing by means of words what a painter does by means of colours. Carlyle defines poetry as a musical thought. To Shelley, it is the expression of emotions. According to Coleridge, poetry is the best words in the best order. To Wordsworth, poetry is the breath and fine spirit of all learning. He also defines poetry as the spontaneous flow of powerful feelings, recollected in tranquility.

In my opinion, poetry is the expression of one’s ideas, the narration of events or the views about something or someone in poetic language.

Elements of Poetry

There are many essential elements of poetry, which are required to distinguish any line of poetry from other genera of literature. These elements include structure of the poem, imagination, emotions, meter, rhythm, poetic diction, figures of speech, and human appeal along with many other things. Style of poetry is totally different from prose. That is why; it is absolutely different from other forms of literature. Now, let’s discover how poetry is different from other genera of literature:

According to Wordsworth:

"poetry is the breath and fine spirit of all learning. He also defines poetry as the spontaneous flow of powerful feelings, recollected in tranquility."

Poetry and Drama

Poetry enjoys a distinguished position among various forms of literature.Poetry is different from drama in its nature as well as in the use of language. Drama is objective form of literature, while poetry may be either subjective or objective. The language of drama may be either that of poetry or of prose, while language of poetry must be poetic in nature. It should have all the characteristics that are associated with any form of poetry. In drama, there is only action and no narration, while it is not so in poetry.

Definition of Poetry

Poetry and Novel

Poetry is different from novel in many ways. In novel, there is a story and it is in the form narrative as well as dialogue, while poetry is the combination of narration and story. Like novel, poetry is an art of fancy and imagination. There is a vast difference between the language of poetry and novel. In poetry, poetic, figurative and metrical language is used; while in novel only prose is used. Meter is the most important feature of poetry. Novel is lengthy, while poetry is either lengthy or short in its contents.

Poetry and Criticism

Poetry is different from criticism in its functions. The function of criticism is to pass remarks, comments and make statements in favour of or against any piece of literature, while poetry is the art of creating a piece of literature, which has greater appeal to the taste of the readers using all essential elements of poetry. Criticism is exploration, while poetry is the art of creation.

Main Types of Poetry

There are two major kinds of poetry i.e., Classical Poetry & Romantic Poetry. The term classical has been derived from classicus, which is the name of uppermost class in the Roman society. Hence, it means the best. Classical poetry is the name given to the type of poetry, which shows high seriousness and immense love for classical rules. In classical poetry, greater importance is given to reading than hearing and most of all poetry is based realism. The examples of classical poetry in English Literature are the poetry of Milton, Alexander Pope, Dryden, T.S Eliot etc.

The term romantic has been derived from romance, which means a highly fantastic story or it is a type of poetry, which is based upon imagination, emotions, feelings, beauty, sensuousness, love for nature, Hellenism, Humanism, idealism, revolutionary trends, Medievalism, supernaturalism, strangeness and violation of classical rules. It is poetry of the inner voice of the heart of the author, not the creation of his mind. Romantic poetry violates all the classical rules and discovers new words and rules to support the subject matter.


Poetry is a means of catharsis?

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Forms of Poetry

Poetry has been divided into two major forms: Subjective Poetry and Objective Poetry. Subjective poetry is the kind of poetry, wherein the author reveals his personality and gives vent to his emotions, feelings and voice of his heart. Subjective poetry is also called lyrical poetry. The poet is mainly concerned with the beauty of his beloved and the harsh treatment he received from her/him. Subjective poetry has been divided into lyric, sonnet, ode, elegy and hymn.

Objective poetry is a type of poetry, wherein the poet conceals his personality and doesn’t give any description of his feelings, experiences or emotions. This kind of poetry is further divided into two main groups: Narrative and Dramatic. Dramatic poetry includes poetic drama, soliloquy and dramatic monologue, while narrative poetry consists of epic, mock epic, ballad, lyrical ballad, metrical romance and idyll.


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