Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A couple weeks ago, a discussion about poetry got me thinking about what poetry is exactly. There is, I agree, a certain sense of recognition. That's half of it. I guess for me it's also a question of rhythm. Some poems or their rhythm or something will get in my head and once inside, it's usually rather difficult shake off. I'm not really sure why that happens, it just does.

Like this, for example.

When the green field comes off like a lid
Revealing what was much better hid:
And look, behind you without a sound
The woods have come up and are standing round
In deadly crescent.
(from W.H. Auden, "The Two")

I don't know why it got stuck in my head, but reading the whole poetry discussion, I remembered it, and felt compelled to go look it up.

Honestly, as a former literature major I've often had to analyze things in great detail. While I probably gained a lot of insight from the process, it took a lot of the magic out of things. Knowing the why and the how usually do. I never really studied English (language) poetry, and I'm really glad, actually. So I can just say, poetry is just magic, simple as that.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

That's Wendell Berry, and even though there seems to be no overlying rhythm in most of his works I still consider it poetry. I guess if it wasn't structured into stanzas like that it would just be considered prose. I think for myself the more important part of the definition has to do with the ability of a piece of writing to evoke an emotional response. My education involved mostly training in Computer Information Systems, so I'm blessed with not being able to dissect a poem too much :)

I actually looked for a definition, and most of the ones I found were annoyingly circular, like "what a poet writes", or "writing that has a poetic quality".