Poetry: To Define or Not To Define

By Mackie Benson, Class of 2017

Throughout time, people discover different stories: tales of sorrow, adventure, love, and religion.  They label the majority of these poetry.  So what exactly is poetry?  Webster’s Dictionary defines poetry as “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.”  This definition seems to cover the meaning of this art, yet is there not so much more to it?  For example, Homer’s Iliad is one of the most famous poems of all time.  It has the elements of war, honor, mythology, and betrayal woven together into the tapestry of the Trojan War.  The tale has remained with humanity for years.

As much as this epic is beloved, the rest of  poetry cannot be confined by a definition formed with one poem.  With all of these differences among the poetic arts, there seems to be no way to cleanly define poetry.  Poetry is more complex than a few words used to constrict a style.  Good poems grasp emotions and bend them to the author’s will.  Some people find peace by telling stories from their own imagination.  Some of these people find a way to keep their art around for decades like Robert Frost, Homer, and King David.

Poetry paints a picture through its rhythm and words.  It lights a spark in the imagination, setting our thoughts ablaze with inspiration.  A little girl finds her escape and creates beauty.  The old man tells his stories that have been with him through the years on a small piece of paper with an old ballpoint pen for future generations.  Poems could be loud like thunder or quiet like a whispering wind.  They are for the young and the old, the hated and the loved.

So what exactly is poetry?  In the end such a beautiful art must refuse to be limited by any single definition.


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