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Buncho, Japanese woodcut  (1765-1792)


by Kevin Taylor

~ Poetry is the achievement of Art through the use of language, rhythm and form.

~ Poetry is the art of Achievement through the use of language, rhythm and form.


Having said so there are those who would argue that these definitions do not encompass all of what poetry is. However, in order to understand the nature of poetry it is necessary to define it first in terms of certainties. Poetry is unarguably an art form. It does communicate on some level or another and that communication deals with conceptual or experiential expressions, most frequently in a written or verbal form. Rhythm is second in importance only to communication and provides the carrier wave for its message. Rhythm and its variations, harmonics, counterpoints etc are the primary media of poetry. All other tools and devices are secondary to rhythm and serve only to increase, decrease, maintain, alter or enhance its character.Swallows in flight. Artist Unknown. Japanese woodcut (17th-18th century)

Poetry has three primary components: language, rhythm and form.

Message is the content. The communication, primarily but not limited to language.

Rhythm is commonly regarded as meter although that is a coarse view and does not fully express the texture of a poem. Rhythm is a patterned repetition of contrasting sound intensities and qualities. That, and changes within those characteristics are what determines a poem's flow. There are also categories of rhythm (visual, tactile etc) that fall within the subject of form.

Form is the interface - the manner of communication - and includes the physical attributes of the poem: shape, style etc as well as presentation. It may be spoken, printed, concrete, free form or otherwise. Styles of poetry such as the sonnet or blank verse etc are part of form. This is the department of technique.

Poetry n. 1. Poetry is the achievement of art through the use of language, rhythm and form. 2. Poetry is the art of achievement through the use of language, rhythm and form. [ultimately from Gk. poietes < poiein, to create] Poetry is, at once, what you get... and how you got there.  

Each of these components; language, rhythm and form, may be weighted differently in terms of importance. The foundations of various philosophies of poetry (and art) are rooted therein. But none of these broad categories can function without the other two present in at least some degree. Each element defines, modifies, compliments or is defined, modified or complimented by, those remaining.

Where language approaches rhythm we have music.
Where rhythm approaches form we have dance.
Where form approaches language we have sculpture.
Song lies between music and dance.
Mime, between dance and sculpture. As does, a little further along, painting etc.

Poetry is elusive in that it can be readily found straddling the scale at any point.

"Where such-and-such approaches so-and-so," does not mean anything in terms of real distance. It is only a statement of relative primary importances.

Poetry does not merely seek to cause an effect upon its audience. Rather, it seeks to raise the audience from spectatorism to cause, by participation, on a gradient scale, through contribution (physical or mental) and may run the gamut from, for example, applause and more direct levels of interaction, and finally through to the highest levels wherein the audience contributes, not only to poetry on an immediate and responsive basis, but to the art itself as creators in their own right.

Thus poets are made.

And thus great poets may be recognized. 

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