What is poetry?

What is poetry?

I have, at different times, wondered about this, thought about it, rolled my eyes on hearing the question and wanted to smack someone for asking same (admittedly, the person in question was drunk and aggressive)

Admittedly, thanks to the inimitable Stephen Fry, star of stage, screen and the talking type wireless, I have an answer that I think I’m happy with.

To quote:

“Poetry is metrical writing”.

It is writing where consideration is given primarily to the weight of each word. It’s relationship with the rest of the piece.

I know that prose writers, be they fiction or non-fiction, take this into consideration. The difference I think is a matter of precendence. If a prose author were to take the care and crafting word by word that a poet does. I expect that many books would never be completed.

An author expects to clear a few thousand words a day, a poet expects to find a few thousand words in their latest book.

Like all attempts at putting a definition to an artform, they are by nature a little liquid. Partially because someone will invariably bring up something that tries to push boundries between one thing and another, or tries to mess up the definitions. Personally, I think they confirm the boundaries. To transgress a boundary, you have to kind of define and accept it’s existence. Otherwise, it’s posturing.

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Tim Hamilton

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