The Definition of Poetry

IMG_1818Poetry is not my genre of choice. Not because I don’t appreciate it, but because I’m more comfortable writing short essays and fiction.

Ever since National Poetry Month, though, the folks in the creative writing class at Harwood Place have challenged me to read more, write more, and discuss more poems. They continue to produce wonderful pieces, so I in turn bring them examples of works by published authors, essays on the aspects of poetry, and prompts to feed the muse.

Last Saturday though, one of the writers asked me point blank, “What’s the definition of poetry?” and I thought, Oooh…this might be a good time to guide them back to the personal essay. I mean, how much do I really know about the form and function of a good poem?

Well, I do know this: teaching is learning. So, I answered their question to the best of my ability with words like succinctimagery, and cadence. Then, I went home in search for more. I found this article on the meaning of poetry that includes a quote, which, for me, answers the question well:

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
~ Rita Dove

And, I left them with a poem that speaks to this definition somewhat. Go read “One Good Thing,” (posted on The Writer’s Almanac on September 15th)  by Edwin Romond. It’s a beautiful look into the light and life a father discovers during a simple moment with his son. My favorite line from the poem is the prompt for next month’s meeting:

this is one good thing.

I want to say more. But, I really want you to go read that poem and reflect on your own “one good thing.” After all, that’s part of the gift in poetry: reflection.


About Christi

Christi Craig is a native Texan living in Wisconsin, working by day as a sign language interpreter and moonlighting as a writer, teacher, and editor. Her stories and essays have appeared online and in print, and she received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Family Matters Contest, 2010. You can send comments or questions via her contact page.
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2 Responses to The Definition of Poetry

  1. Victoria says:

    Is it not also a doorway, not only into the poet’s mind or a single moment, but a doorway to language itself?
    Victoria recently posted..#PenToPaper 9.25.14My Profile

    • Christi Christi says:

      I think you’re right. I don’t want to say there are “constraints” in poetry, but the way we’re challenged to use language in poetry certainly takes language to another level.

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