What is Poetry?
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That's a good question. Maybe this is poetry. A haiku, perhaps.
…the art of poetry is just as important today as ever, and it can help us reflect
and learn more about ourselves and our place in the universe. [caveman on a shrinking globe]
… slightly more valuable than a freshly baked clay pot.
So why is there such a stigma attached to poetry?
Why do we picture stuffy old folks in leather armchairs, puffing away on their pipes and
speaking in a faux British accent? [old englishman in chair]
Honestly… because it can sometimes be difficult to understand. We just assume it’s for the
cultural elite. So not true. Yeah, interpreting poetry can be tough. But [caveman with a rubix cube]
for those who put in the work to decipher a poem’s hidden meanings, the rewards can
Not like… winning the lottery great. But still… it can lead to some important self-discovery.
But why do poems have to read like they’ve been written in some sort of secret code? [caveman sherlock Holmes]
Do we need a decoder ring to crack these things?
Is the CIA hard at work attempting to get to the bottom of Pablo Neruda’s poems? [CIA reading poem book]
This “secret code” is what makes poetry… poetry.
Straightforward speech… that’s for novels and short stories.
Poetry experiments, not only with ideas relating to the human experience, but with language
itself. [poem experimenting in lab]
Because it is free from many of the usual restrictions of style and grammar…
…it can sometimes allow us to stumble on certain ways of thinking we might otherwise [caveman strips over poem]
never have considered. You’ll notice that many poems are jam-packed
with figurative language, which can be used to convey meaning. [caveman in jam-jar]
For example, you’re thinking right now about how much jam can be packed into a jar. Yeah.
Poetry is just like that. Again, the frequent use of metaphor and simile
help the reader draw unfamiliar connections…[caveman on bed]
…that will occasionally inspire little “eureka” moments.
But it’s not just the content that sets poetry apart.
There are stylistic elements, such as repetition… repetition… repetition…[broken record]
…rhyme, and meter…
…that make a poem feel different than prose.
And it makes no bones about being its own animal.
“Iamb what I am.” When poetry got its start, it was nothing [caveman playing dinosaur bones]
more than part of the oral tradition…
…words and phrases in metered form that were passed from one person to another via
memorization. [cavemen around fire]
Those rhythms and meters helped folks remember the words…
…and by the time poems were written down, the art form had just kind of adopted these
Which explains why poems often seem sing-songy.
Don’t hesitate to bust out a little Walt Whitman at your next karaoke party. [caveman singing karaoke]
Because poetry is so much about inventiveness, it can sometimes be tough to pin down just
what a poem is. [thumb tack put into poem]
Notes on the fridge, grocery lists, pop music…
All are arguably forms of poetry. Although some are clearly more artful than others.
Even if your mom can put together quite a catchy shopping list. [girl making shopping list into poetry]
But while poetry is a bit all over the map…
…there are certain types that pop up often enough that we had to devise a name for them.
Sonnets are romantic poems with a ton of meaning and not too many lines…
Villanelles are nineteen line poems with a rigid rhyming scheme…
Limericks are light verses that often feature a comical twist at the end.
“There once was a man from Madrid, Who sautéed his oldest boy, Sid
He threw in some spice And claimed it was nice [spice sprinkles over boy playing with car]
To be putting in thyme with his kid.” And then there’s plain old free verse…
…no rules or restrictions, just words on a page, in whatever order and length that
the poet feels is necessary.
In that case, it’s all about letting the subject matter be your guide.
So while you may feel that poetry isn’t your cup of tea…
…we urge you to give it a chance.
It’s not all flowery language and structured verses…
…although even some of that flowery language might open your eyes a little wider and teach
you something new about the world…