My Definition of Poetry


1. The art or work of a poet.
Middle English, from Old French poete, from Latin poeta, from Greek poietes, maker, composer, from poiein, to create.

No one may define poetry except the poet. In like manner no one may define what art is except the artist. Those like editors and curators who may attempt to do so are often doomed to failure because often they are neither artists nor poets but erroneously they presume to know something about it.

Poetry acknowledged as such by hoi polloi is quite another matter. Those who are honest enough to say, “I do not know what art or poetry is (because I am not an artist or a poet), but I know what I like” acknowledge greatness not by reason but by instinct. The work has touched them, not intellectually but emotionally. When great numbers of people rise up and acclaim the poet then the powers that be give their assent saying “Of course, we knew it all the time!”

If the poet/artist’s colleagues should choose to critically comment upon the poet’s work let them do so in the proper spirit, lest they destroy their fellow in the process, or bring destruction upon themselves by the same unkind scrutiny of their own work.

So what then is our task? Let us attempt to determine if we are poets by aspiring to be such. Let us attempt learn and retain what details of mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, history, and traditions there may be, not only relating to poetry as we are in this class, this semester, but in years to come, about everything in the world. For truly the poet’s canvas is the world and to hope to understand this poet or that one, we must attempt to understand the world as well. Finally, I think we should attempt keep an open mind about what is good and bad, great and small, when considering the works of the poets, extending the benefit of the doubt as regards their poetic ability, based on a clear understanding of the limitations of our own.

If you liked this essay on poetry, consider reading these as well:

What Role Does Poetry Play in Society?

About Louis William Rose

“I am an advocate for Liberty. What I do for Liberty I do not do for profit or fame. I seek no office other than the office of parliamentarian, and no reward other than for myself and my fellow men and women to live in a free country.” Louis William Rose is a lifelong student of parliamentary procedure and political process. He has served as parliamentarian for various organizations. A political philosopher, poet, singer, and writer, his articles have been published on-line and in pro-liberty papers in Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, and Montana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of North Florida, graduating summa cum laude in 2004, with an additional two years of graduate work in political philosophy. Mr. Rose is an outspoken supporter of the basic rights of man, especially freedom of speech, association, religion, individual rights to personal defense and property, and of republican, constitutional forms of government. He is married to the lovely Jamy Sue Rose, an award winning nature photographer and a Florida Master Naturalist and guide. He has two sons, Edward, a hydroponic farmer in the panhandle of Florida, and Alexander, a successful real estate developer.
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