Poetry

Poetry (from the Latin poeta, a poet) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns, lyrics, or prose poetry. Poetry is published in dedicated magazines (the longest established being Poetry and Oxford Poetry), e-zines, individual collections and wider anthologies, although it is rare to see anything other than lyric poetry outside of collections.

Poetry, and discussions of it, have a long history. Early attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song, and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from prose. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more loosely defined as a fundamental creative act using language. Digital poetry is a modern form.

 

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

"If" is a poem written in 1896 by the then 31-year-old Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in the Brother Square Toes chapter of Rewards and Fairies, Kipling's 1910 collection of short stories and poems. Like William Ernest Henley's Invictus, it is a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and the "stiff upper lip" that popular culture has made into a traditional British virtue. Its status is confirmed both by the number of parodies it has inspired, and by the widespread popularity it still draws amongst Britons (it was voted Britain's favorite poem in a 1995 BBC opinion poll). The poem's line, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same" is written on the wall of the centre court players' entrance at the British tennis tournament, Wimbledon.


Poetry and Literature

Literature translated, means "acquaintance with letters" (from Latin littera letter), and therefore the academic study of literature is known as Letters (as in the phrase "Arts and Letters"). In Western culture the most basic written literary types include fiction and nonfiction.

A poem is a composition written in verse (although verse has been equally used for epic and dramatic fiction). Poems rely heavily on imagery, precise word choice, and metaphor; they may take the form of measures consisting of patterns of stresses (metric feet) or of patterns of different-length syllables (as in classical prosody); and they may or may not utilize rhyme. One cannot readily characterize poetry precisely. Typically though, poetry as a form of literature makes some significant use of the formal properties of the words it uses - the properties of the written or spoken form of the words, independent of their meaning. Meter depends on syllables and on rhythms of speech; rhyme and alliteration depend on the sounds of words.

Poetry perhaps pre-dates other forms of literature: early known examples include the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (dated from around 2700 B.C.), parts of the Bible, the surviving works of Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey), and the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In cultures based primarily on oral traditions the formal characteristics of poetry often have a mnemonic function, and important texts: legal, genealogical or moral, for example, may appear first in verse form.