World Poetry Day – What Is Poetry?

It seems like a silly question – what is poetry? But in many ways I think it is crucial, so, for World Poetry Day, let’s spend a bit of time glaring at the roots.

What is a poet? A poet is someone who practices the art of writing poetry. Is someone adept at writing poetry.

The South Korean film, Poetry, tackles the poet/poetry issue in a very interesting manner. The protagonist, an elderly lady, decides to join a poetry class. She then struggles throughout the entire film to write a poem because she can’t get her head around how to be poetic, although her life, experience and troubles are perfect poetic fodder. She makes notes of what she sees and eventually these notes turn into a poem.

What is a poet? Someone who looks at the world anew.

Staring into the fire daily and not blinking – not taking the easy way through or out – choosing the hard, impossible route. For what? Not money or recognition. Most professional poets have several jobs. They usually teach. They tour and do readings. All this alongside their main job, writing poetry. Which brings me back to my original question. Whatever poetry is it’s done outside paid work and the reward from poetry is personal, immeasurable.

A poet has the mystical, mythological status of being a ‘poet’, meaning that he or she is expected to see the world in an original way. A tough ask. The world of poetry is very cliquey. A poet is recognised as being a poet when his fellow poets say so. To become a poet you need to be published in reputable magazines, build an audience through readings and have a collection out that has won some sort of illustrious award and is well on the way to becoming a university set text. A tough road indeed.

A poet should be familiar with the different poetic forms. Sometimes, these may seem constricting. Freeform is equally problematic – freedom is boundless, chaotic. A poem needs to have the form to distinguish it as being a poem. Otherwise, it’s something else. Vision is processed through form to create a poem. Ideas, feelings, transcendence as important as execution. A poem is crafted, words carefully chosen to create rhythm, musicality; words measured to fit, to create impact.

what is poetry?

life is but a dream
I choose every moment
with grandpa –
what is poetry a
mistake, lesson, the answer
or the question.

Bogdan Tiganov

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