PoetC Poetry starts here


Learn to write poetry

A Guide to Writing Poetry

What is poetry? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, poetry is 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. The problem and beauty of poetry are, however, difficult to define.  The dictionary gives us only a glimpse into the mystical qualities of well crafted verse.

Poetry is the oldest known form of literature. In ancient times, few people could read and write.  Verses with rhythm and rhyme were much easier to memorize than prose. Historical accounts, legends, and amusing stories were often composed in poetic form and handed down orally from generation to generation. Traveling bards and scops entertained and instructed with their poems and were much respected by their audiences.

Poetry is many things to many people. William Wordsworth, the father of the English Romantic movement, defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions.” The famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats felt that a line of poetry should seem spontaneous, even though that single line might take hours to craft. Dylan Thomas said, “Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing.”

Even famous poets have difficulty grasping the exact definition of poetry, although they all agree that the words in a poem should be powerful, capable of conveying the poet’s thoughts and sharing them with readers in a very personal way. A poem might make readers laugh or cry, or it might conjure up a poignant memory. It might instruct, entertain, or simply share an experience, one human to another.

Above all, poetry should use concise language. In other words, the individual words of the poet should be carefully chosen to convey imagery. They should be able to help the reader picture a scene, feel a texture, hear a sound, smell a scent, or almost be able to taste a food described. This is called sensory imagery, and it is an important aspect of poetry.