A Brief Reflection on What is Poetry

The Parnassus, by Rafael (ca. 1511) - famous poets recite atop Mount Parnassus surrounded by the Nine Muses (wikipedia.org)

I believe poetry is the highest of mankind’s literary achievements, timeless, appealing down the ages, revealing imagery of the poet’s struggles and experiences, stresses and joys, passions of love, navigating life with determination and purpose. Poetry is word paintings, full of colours, bright and dark, that create from a few words images to inspire the imagination and enhance memories.

Poets use experiences and emotions, often raw and painful, sharing visions, good and bad times, relationships, family, friends and lovers. I myself compose best in spiritual pain — poems forged white hot, hammered out upon the anvil of anguish, exploring being part of the human race, the adventures of being in love, and suffering a broken heart, searching for God and meaning to the great mysteries of the Universe.

Poetry should have a beat like the steady beat of a drum, the poet painting a word picture seen only in the mind, giving so much more than the words on the page. The Chinese say a picture is worth a million words. This is also true with a poem, the springboard into the poet’s soul.

What would life be like without poetry? Having the sun in one’s universe perpetually eclipsed, the darkness never giving way to a dawn of promise where the soul can soar free and mountain high like eagles on the wing.

The poet’s Muse composes within the secret landscape of the heart, and is as important as the beat of the heart and every breath taken. Poetry is the language of the soul, daily bread, sweet and joyful, sometimes sorrowful when out-pacing purple storms with thunder clouds and lightning bolts of unhappiness and grief.

                      In childhood

                      A voice called to me

                     And I hear it calling still.

                     My poetry rests upon a belief in a loving God

Some fellow poets thoughts on what is poetry –

      “Poetry is the medicine of the world. It soothes and ennobles the soul.”

Associate professor Feng Yan, China.

“The best words in the best order.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The record of the best and happiest moments of the best and happiest minds.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that it is poetry.”

Emily Dickinson

    “A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfilment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words.”

 Robert Frost

   “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”

 William Wordsworth

         “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.”

 Dylan Thomas 

              “Poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life.”

Matthew Arnold


        “Poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.”

Stephen Spender