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What is Poetry? A Brief Outline

Updated on November 29, 2017

A Painting - Ruanne Manning - Poetry & Gentle Breezes


About Poetry

Poetry is an inspirational form of writing that can also be expressed in the spoken word. It has an emotional aspect to it and embraces ideas about practically anything worth giving attention to in life.

It's name originates from the Greek word poieo which means "I Create". Words used in poetry create beauty and become aesthetically pleasing to the reader. Poetry should flow and depth is imparted to it by the use of a particular rhythm or style. Although it should flow it does not necessarily have to rhyme.

Poetry has associations with music in that it is sometimes perceived as being musical in quality due to the language that is used. This is mostly found when metre, rhythm and alliteration are applied and assonance, consonance, refrain and dissonance are used.

One reader may interpret a poem differently to another; it is an open book as far as this is concerned. Poets need to choose and select words carefully to give meaning to what they want to convey in a poem. Some may let words emerge as they write without thinking too much about the words which practice could stifle their creative outpouring.

Prose is different to poetry in that it is the form of writing most used in articles, stories, plays, novels and many other types of writings. It may or may not include dialogue and is often written in the way a person would speak. Unlike poetry it does not make use of metre, verse or rhyme.

Modern-day Rap music is a form of poetry because it incorporates the usage of lines of spoken verse in songs.

Some examples of the different types of poetry are: Ballads, Elegy's, Epitaphs, Free Verse, Haiku's, Lyrics, Narratives, Odes and Sonnets.

A Definition of Some of the Terms Used Here

  • Metre - the primary rhythmic arrangement of a verse or the lines in a verse.

  • Rhythm - the arrangement of long or short syllables in verse.
  • Rhyme - when two or more words in language have similar sounds.

  • Syllable - one or more letters that define a unit of language that consists of a single sound.

  • Verse - a body of lines forming a unit in a poem or song.
  • Alliteration - the repetition of a consonant sound

  • Consonant sound - a speech sound used in language that is not a vowel.
  • Assonance - the repetition of vowel sounds in words that are near to each other which emphasizes the meaning of words.

  • Dissonance - a lack of harmony in words used to grab the readers attention, by breaking the flow of words.
  • Refrain - the repetition of a stanza or part of a stanza.

  • Stanza - a group of lines in a poem which forms the standard recurring metrical unit in a poem.

Summing Up

A few other terms that are used in poetry are: euphony, simile and metaphor.

Euphony is the flowing, musical aspect of poetry where words are organised in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The poet attempts to use imagery and word structure that allows the reader to be caught up in the mood of what is being conveyed in the poem.

Simile is a figure of speech which compares one thing with another which makes the definition more striking and meaningful.

Metaphor is a figure of speech where one thing is used to represent something else. An example would be, 'every dark cloud has a silver lining'. (The dark cloud here refers to doom and gloom and the silver lining means that the outcome will be positive).

Poetry probably originated from storytelling before the written word came about, as a form of conveying information to others but in an artistic or musical kind of way.

There are many definitions of poetry and many more aspects to it; it truly is a wonderful way for men and women to express feelings, emotions in the written, spoken word.

My Poem

This is a poem I wrote about the subject of change.

Embracing Change

Ever changing times and circumstances, or those of the heart,

impact life’s long journey through the meandering path we tread,

along roads and avenues plain or steep with channels of endless decisions

to make whether right or wrong, we embrace them and live with the fruit they

bear both good and bad

Some who have lived long might say how it was then and is now,

often hankering for a time when the way was simpler, while different

values and morals spoke of things being so much more in order than now -

which speeding along hurtles towards enhancements in lifestyles, technology

and systems geared for outcomes both right and wrong

In our youth we knew no better, growing up with what was around us,

whether it was the era of LP records, Mp3 players, laptops, tablets or whatever,

it all made sense at the time, it was what we knew and we knew it well,

only as time passed by and age took over, perhaps we trailed behind some,

trying our best to keep up with a changing world bent on reaching new heights

And when circumstances change, a loss of a job, a broken marriage, ill health

or whatever turn in the road leads to something being suddenly different,

how to walk in a new direction, the emotions being thrown into confusion,

what to do when our life seems to be falling apart? - The room grows dark

though it seems as if the sun shines brightly on the world outside

How to pick yourself up, move on; whom to approach for sage advice; that you

can get over this hurdle, this stumbling block that appeared so unexpectedly?

What is the best course of action to take, you ask yourself and others?

The solution may arrive soon or can take an age to unfold and be revealed,

perhaps never entirely, but at least you can be reassured that life goes on

Around the corner there may be bright sunshine, or muddy skies still linger

we strive on; conquering our fears and finding ways to cope, perhaps even thrive -

when a good season whisks us away into a kind of heavenly state,

climb on the cloud, we’re on our way and nothing can harm us,

bright shining stars illuminate the night sky blotting out all darkness

Or when we have a change of heart and mind; our hearts suddenly softened,

the things that irked us, that blew our bubble are now seen in a different light,

hatred and anger no longer lurk inside, we see with new eyes, as if with the heart,

even if what we saw was wrong, we acknowledge it but want to move on,

to find common ground, move into a space that is both sound and profound

The earth keeps turning, keeps moving majestically in its course around the sun,

like little ants seen from a distance we start and stumble, fly along and fumble,

all the time making improvements: testing, probing, prying - learning from mistakes,

thinking we’re so advanced, yet there’s so much more to come; what was so incredible

in times past, now redundant, a prized museum piece on show

Inevitable, unalterable change, whether over time, new circumstance, or something that

stirred inside us, we can never say life will always to be the same, and so it shouldn’t,

lest we wait for an eternity for our perfect place in the sun; if we ourselves can change

while all around us things seem to be going asunder then the long journey was worth it

and may I sleep well tonight

knowing it's going to be ok.

A Painting by Ditz - The Sheperd's Hut, from 'Far From the Madding Crowd', by Thomas Hardy


Are You a Writer of Poetry?

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© 2014 David Edward Lynch


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    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks very much for your comment!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very meaningful, heartfelt poem. I dabble in poetry from time to time but never free verse like this because I am not sure of the rules. Thank you for explaining some of the science of poetry. Great hub!

    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comments Jodah, when I was writing this hub I thought of perhaps asking the reader to comment whether they thought my poem "Embracing Changes" is poetry or prose? I tend to think it is a bit of both, I am learning a lot as I research on poetry, although I learnt about it at school there's so much more to learn.

    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comments Mel, I think when I write poetry it comes instinctively as you say, but lately I have been trying to choose words more and edit what I've written to improve my poems.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      A very nice succinct analysis of poetry and a lovely set of verses. Poetry is hard to analyze - most of us get it instinctively. It comes from the human soul. Great hub!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very good explanation here Dave, for those curious to learn more about poetry. You explained it very well. Your poem "Embracing Change" has a great message too, but I wonder if it is in fact poetry? I'm not trying to be critical but it appeared to be more prose to me. Anyway, good hub. Voted up.