LESSON 19

I wonder, how many of us before ever writing a poem, have taken the time to truly understand the nature of poetry.  I wonder, how many of us have asked ourselves: what is poetry, how does it work, why does it work, and how does one actually create a poem.

Poetry is, and is not, about rhyme.  Poetry is all about emotion and passion and imagery, appealing not just to our minds but, to all our senses.  Poetry is intense and lyrical.  Poetry is simple as the sigh of the wind through the branches of a willow and as fierce as a hurricane tearing that same willow from the ground.

I thought, it might be helpful, to share with you the thoughts of some very famous poets, on the “definition” of poetry.

  1. “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” – Robert Frost
  1. “The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, whish is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  1. “One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all but, perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves.” – W. H. Auden
  1. “A poet who makes use of a worse word instead of a better, because the former fits the rhyme or the measure, though it weakens the sense, is like a jeweler, who cuts a diamond into a brilliant, and diminishes the weight to make it shine more.” -Horace Walpole
  1. “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” – Dylan Thomas

It would seem, poets and philosophers, in general, agree that poetry rises above the ordinary.  Poetry captures in words that which is almost unspeakable, unclaimable – the raw and aching fantasies and the realities that make you/you and me/me.

When teaching poetry, I make a point to instruct my students to “let go” of preconceived notions of what poetry is.  It is not, I tell them, the nursery rhyme “poetry” we grew up on.  It is your soul speaking to your brain, translated into a poem by your heart.  So, once again, I implore you to let go of your need to rhyme.  Let the poem, the words, the thoughts, the feelings flow like a swollen river onto the page.  Let the poem happen at its own pace, within the tempo of its own rhythm and let the words mean, be, not because they rhyme but, because no other words, no other combination of words could say that exact thing, could convey those exact feelings, could move us to know and feel and become, part of your poetic vision.

-SAK

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