“Poetry is the kind of thing poets write.”Robert Frost
I love this quote from Robert Frost. To me, this quote expresses the importance of not giving poetry one single definition–of not putting it in a box. Poetry is an art form that is constantly evolving, and the style in which poets write is always changing. So, what is poetry, then? I think that is up to us to decide.
I feel there are many misconceptions about poetry. When I first started teaching poetry to my creative writing students, I was met with hesitant looks and groans of frustration. To them, poetry was the most boring thing they ever had to endure in literature class. But once we looked at what poetry is today, and what it can look like, it slowly became one of their favorite genres to write.
Here are (in my opinion) some of the most common misconceptions about poetry:
- It’s boring
- It’s difficult to understand
- It always has to rhyme
- It’s old-fashioned.
Like I said, my writing students were not excited to start our poetry unit. But they now love it because they now see it in a new light.
It is true that some poetry is difficult to understand, but I think that’s part of the beauty of it. Poetry isn’t something you can skim through–it isn’t something you can read once and move on. Poetry is the thing we keep coming back to–it’s the thing we read over and over, at different phases of our lives, because every time it can take on a whole new meaning to us. Poets hide their meanings in-between the lines of their poems–that is why it is so crucial that we take our time and enjoy the art the poet has created.
Poetry does often rhyme, but that isn’t always the case. Modern day poets have begun creating poems that rhyme less and are more reflective on concepts from their life. Even when a poem doesn’t rhyme, there is often still a rhythm of some sort. Whether it’s the amount of words the poet uses or the visual arrangement of the words on the page–poetry still has that rhythmical feel that separates it from a traditional narrative.
It’s old-fashioned: yes, there are an abundance of old poems that exist in the world; however, it is still prevalent in our everyday literary world. We are still creating poems, poetry books are still being published, and young people all over the world are still enjoying the genre.
So, what does poetry mean to ME?
To me, poetry is the colliding of words with art. Poetry is a genre that gives a writer the chance to express their thoughts on life, the lessons they’ve learned, the pain they’ve endured, and how they have grown as a person through all of it.
I often relate poetry to a painter or a drawer. Painters will paint a picture to express an emotion or to portray a specific scene. Sometimes these paintings will be a reflection of something from their life, and other times it may represent a broader concept that relates to the world. Writers do this same thing with words instead of paint, and to me, that result is poetry.
Here is what poetry CAN look like:
This is “Conversation Among the Ruins” by Sylvia Plath. I don’t know about you, but I had to read this one several times through in order to grasp what it meant. There is nothing wrong with that! In fact, it stretches our brain, allows us to expand our vocabulary, and overall helps us become better writers! This is an older style of poetry, and I feel this is what most people imagine when they think of poetry. This can be very daunting and can turn people away from the genre.
However, poetry can also look like this:
This is from the book You Are Only Just Beginning by Morgan Harper Nichols. This is a more modern take on poetry from a modern-day poet who is actively writing and publishing in the genre. In my experience, many people are unfamiliar with this modern form of poetry, which is very different from the first.
Both examples are beautiful, and both are considered poetry. Neither form is wrong–it just shows that the art form is alive and constantly changing. It is all a matter of personal preference and what you enjoy reading. However, I encourage you to explore poetry if it is something that is unfamiliar to you! You may find healing and inspiration from a poet’s words.
With my own poetry book in the works, this topic is very special to me. Poetry has been an art that has helped me through so many challenges in life–whether it was writing my own or reading other poets’ writing, it all inspired me in some way! I love the genre, and my hope is to share it with as many people as I can! I hope you have a new perspective if you were on the fence about poetry.
If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email, message me on instagram, or comment on this post! I love getting to talk about all things books and writing with anyone!