3 things poetry is not

I don’t know the first thing about poetry.  I don’t think I have ever read a poetry book front to back.  I didn’t study writing in college or university.

I wrote one poem a few years back.  I decided to share that poem last week.  Some people seemed to enjoy it.

I think the acceptance of readers and the encouragement of others birthed something that hadn’t been there before.  Like childbirth it was unnerving, scary, becoming responsible for something new.

Like many new parents I had no idea what to do but I knew what not to do.

  1. Poetry is not about how complex it is, whether it rhymes or not.
  2. Poetry is not about whether you are articulate, or street rhyming.
  3. In poetry it doesn’t matter whether your poem is three lines or three hundred.

It’s that it speaks to someone, that it moves them, that it shows the readers something, takes them somewhere.  It can be sorrowful or light, make you smile or cry.

It’s so open for interpretation, it can bring the reader places that they need to go, that they want to go or that they are lead to go….

Every time that I post I wonder what is a poem?

Is this a poem?

Are these just words that have echoed through out time over the ages?  Expressed in many a way through many a word?

But they are unique and original like every newly birthed child.  Every one is eager to meet the new child.  People want to visit.  People come bearing gifts and well wishes.

So it goes with words, writing and poetry.

All you have to do is allow people in to meet with you and your new gift.

But what do I know?

I don’t even know what a poem is.

Jennifer

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83 comments

  1. lizzgracelee

    Hi, I understand those feelings about poetry. I always describe it as an expression on emotions, colours or anything, in words but I don’t think there is a true solid definition. I agree with you entirely on the three things a poem is not and I like the way you have compared a newly written poem to a newly born baby 🙂
    Lizz

  2. thecheesewolf

    It’s always great to find out what other folk think about writing. It is so generous of people to be forthcoming of their work and of their ideas. For me I have a distinction in my mind between poetry and poems. Poems are common enough things – written thoughts in a chosen form (whatever that may be). Poetry on the other hand is rare, magical, indefinable and not located in a single mode of expression. On occasions my cat has poetry, birds have it, music has it, love, fear, clouds, life etc. etc. … you get the idea. On occasions these things we write have it, and when a poem has poetry it is a truly wonderful thing. Wonderful, but rare. Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing them.

    • writingsofamrs

      Hi there, thanks for stopping by,
      No, no I thank you for sharing your thoughts. They were beautifully expressed.
      Here’s to discovering wonderfully rare things.
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

  3. Nancy

    I really like this post. I don’t consider myself a poet at all, but a writer I am, and often when I post something that I feel is “poetic” I attach the moniker “poem” to it, even if only in my own mind. And I especially like how you described a poem: “It’s that it speaks to someone, that it moves them, that it shows the readers something, takes them somewhere. It can be sorrowful or light, make you smile or cry.” (P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog. It led me here.)

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  5. magnusmayus

    If I have learned one thing in my decades of writing (amateur as well as professional) you only need to follow two rules: it needs to be sincere and it needs to come from the heart. Then people can connect and understand the message you try to deliver.

  6. eleanorjanebirdy

    Don’t worry, no-one knows what a poem is! Seriously.

    But do read poetry – good and bad – you’ll start to pick up some tips and be inspired. As an English teacher one way we got students started was to take inspiration from a good poem and put your own slant on it i.e. write your own ‘spell’ in imitation of ‘Bubble, bubble toil and trouble’ from Macbeth.

    Get hold of an anothology or two and read one poem every night. Read it several times. Muse on it. Jot down how it makes you feel, what it makes you think, any tricks the author uses like repetition, an extended metaphor etc. See if it inspires you to write something yourself.

    Good luck and enjoy!

    • writingsofamrs

      Elanor
      Thank you for the great tips and for sharing your views on poems and poetry, especially coming from an english teacher.
      I find if I spend too much time on other people’s poems I get distrcted from the song my own words are trying to bring. Don’t get me wrong I read tons of poetry now that I am on word press but I don’t spend too much time looking at the structure etc. I read to see what speaks to me.
      Thanks for your well wishes.
      Jennifer

  7. Gabe

    Love this post.

    I’m always asked if I majored in journalism in college.

    My standard answer: thank god I didn’t.

    gabe
    “The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors &
    Readers Fall In Love With Your Work”

  8. The Running Son

    Poetry.. I’ll take a few stabs.
    Door #1: The lie that tells the truth (Picasso)
    Door #2: Saying things people would laugh at had you said it at a party.
    Door #3: “mystery via suggestion” rather than “reduction via explanation”
    Door #4: a meta-language for communicating ideas and emotions that have no natural category boundaries.
    Door #5: poetry keeps us from punching walls or eating the entire contents of the refrig.
    😉 Jim

  9. Michele D'Acosta

    I love what you say and the way you express your truth. And, yes, I agree with you that poetry is a mystery. I’m passionate about this medium but I’ve shied away from learning how to write poetry. Words come to me in groups of various sizes, I then transcribe the messages. That’s good enough for me!

    • Jennifer writingsofamrs

      Michele,
      I could argue that in itself is poetry!
      I look forward to reading your words in all forms.
      I hope your passion blooms into something courageous and true to you. Freeing ourselves in all areas of life is part of the joy in living. (in my opinion)
      Thanks for your contribution to my blog and my journey.
      Here’s to getting better acquainted.
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      • Michele D'Acosta

        Jennifer, you’re a beautiful person, I can hear your voice speaking the words as you write them. You have a rare gift! God, aren’t we blessed to live in this time and have WordPress at our fingertips.

        In terms of worldwide events with so much tragedy and uncertainty all around us — I feel so blessed to meet and connect with a fellow wordsmith and traveler, such as yourself.

        Thank you for the kind words about my work that you posted in a couple of other comments. I feel as if I’m only now getting started! Giving myself permission to let my voice be an instrument for peace and service to others…

        I also look forward to getting better acquainted.

        Thank you for making my day.

        Peace and be blessed.

        Michele

  10. H. Ken Abell

    Hi Jennifer, Thank you for directing me to this article. I sincerely hope you weren’t upset by my critque. I have only just recently begun to appreciate the value of editing — that a good editor can be to writing what a palette knife can be to a painting — going back and cleaning up what exploded out in a rush of emotion — sharpening images, making best use of language. Poetry shouldn’t be strangled by structure (I write crazy, all over the place free-form poetry), but can sometimes be enhanced by it. And as writers, we can challenge ourselves to work within a new form. I hope you understand I was not criticizing your writing, merely offering another possible shape to sculpt those words into.

    • Jennifer writingsofamrs

      Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts again.
      Editors are invaluable. I wish I had more time to dedicate towards structure and studying the form of poetry more.
      Like I said editing for publishing will come later on, right now my attention and focus is elsewhere.
      Feel free to email me at writingsofamrs@outlook.com
      It is a better platform for more in depth conversations.
      Cheers and continued success.
      Jennifer

  11. Sahm King

    This is great. Why? It’s not just because it’s honest. It’s because it’s true. I think this is one of my favorite explanations besides any my lady’s given me (she says silence put into words, which I think is pretty deep). This is inspiring because I feel like it opens the door and says “It’s okay for you to write your words because there’s nothing stopping you. Be a poet if you want to be.”

    • Jennifer writingsofamrs

      Hi Sahm,
      Yes that is the exact message I was trying to get out.
      Thank you for your too kind words, for the re blog and for taking the time to read my musings!
      Jennifer
      P.S You lady’s words are indeed deep and true!

  12. Lilith Colbert

    This is SO true! Poems are pictures which illustrate emotion and paint such wonderful landscapes of magical, beautiful domain. There are SO many poetry types one can research, but when you come up with a rhythm of your own, it’s simply stunning. 🙂

  13. Bastet

    Reblogged this on Bastet and Sekhmet and commented:
    I liked this piece of reflection very much…I wrote poetry in my youth…or rather…I spelled out my emotions in verse…and yet, like Jennifer, I don’t really know what a poem is…thanks Jennifer for putting this into words…you’re a true poet! 😉

  14. shanesbookblog

    I absolutely love this post! I totally agree with you!

    I am new to your blog and new to your poetry & Posts, But i can’t wait to explore the rest of them and absorb all your beautiful and inspiring material!

    Thanks for all the hard work you do to make these posts, They are awesome and you offer some really great advice. (I am a new Writer/Poet/Blogger…so any advice I can get is always appreciated, and you sure do have the best advice haha!

    Hope to chat with you soon!

    ~Shane

    • Jennifer writingsofamrs

      HI Shane,
      Wow, I could read this comment over and over when I feel like blogging is taking over my life!
      Flattery will get you everywhere! 😉
      Good luck with your new journey, write from the heart and people will read! I’ve only been at it 26 days myself!
      I hope to see and hear you around my blog.
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

  15. abitjuakali

    This is lovely. I believe this is true of any art form, isn’t it? Everyone gets an idea of what Good Art or Good Writing is, and anything besides that isn’t Good, when in reality the whole point of any art form is to push boundaries in favour of expression.
    Blessings on your writing!

  16. Clear Sphere

    Interesting comments about what poetry is, agree wholeheartedly. Personally I try and rhyme with my poems as it flows more easily out of me that way. It also focuses how I want to express something. Better the darkness is out on paper than within and cause your soul to commit some horrible sin.
    I like the Yorkshire pudding one also, been from Yorkshire myself I can appreciate what your talking about. 🙂

  17. keladelaide

    Jennifer,
    Like yourself, I have not studied poetry. I majored in children’s literature so that influences how I write. I love that I can post a poem or poetry here and express words in a creative way and people will read it. One of the many great things about blogging.
    Kelly.

  18. msmeme803

    ..I am truly loving this…who is to say what is poetry and what is not? I write what i feel..emotions created through words..self expression…i really love the way you laid this out…very insightful…i enjoyed!!

    • Jennifer writingsofamrs

      Thank you. I appreciate your kind words and you taking the time to comment.
      Some people argue that there is method to poetry (I’ve had some emails about it 😉 ) and I don’t mean to take away from structured scholarly poetry but this way works for me whether it fits into a mold or not.
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      • msmeme803

        You are welcome…and i believe there is no mold for self expression. Society wants to analyze and put labels on everything…especially for those who refuse to wear a certain name tag! I say enjoy and be your wonderful self…Cause I myself am a born rebel…lol..continue writing so that i can read and enjoy!

        🙂

  19. samwadham

    The last line of this post is my favourite! I guess you are defining poems by saying they can’t be defined 🙂

  20. heysugarsugar

    I wish I could write poetry..I am useless. the nearest I got was a bit of prose in a post about a so called fried ”in a faraway land” but its crap….our ‘mutual’ friend on WordPress has opened my eyes to poetry, they were closed before and he inspires me..you have an incredible blog, you are so gifted and talented.. I am in awe. if I could write as beautifully as you and others I would be blessed. Unfortunatly Sugar randomly babbles! 🙂 lol much love Ceri xx

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      I’m sure your poetry is beautiful. I will check it out later.
      Thank you for your too generous words.
      I love to write and I’m glad to hear when people enjoy reading it.
      Welcome,
      Jennifer
      Who is our mutual friend?

      • heysugarsugar

        our lovely ‘Mocha’ 🙂 no I can not write diddly squat, I am having writers block.. all day I have struggled, so many things I want to say but for some reason can not find the words. I don’t want to look depressing!..so I just randomly babble this week….funny things emotions… so glad I found your blog x

  21. Pingback: 5 Tips for Writers | Writings of a Mrs
  22. kaycers

    I thought I was the only one who didn’t know what a poem is! haha. what a fun medium. Thanks again for some great practical advice! Lovesies!

  23. tjtherien

    you’re going to hate me for this… but I am kind of a stickler here… my blog is a poetry blog, poetry I have written… but am I a poet… No… why… because while I do write mostly with rhyme scheme and structure, I have not mastered a single form and there is much I don’t understand like stressed syllables… I don’t count freeform as a form of poetry… I consider it prose… can it be good, most definitely… can it be poetic… yes, but so can the sunset, or a child’s laugh… but does it make it a poem…? I also believe that like prose, poetry has rules this is form and structure in place of grammar and anyone serious about writing poetry should at least learn one of the classic forms… in prose you would first learn to write a sentence before writing an essay… all other artistic forms have a discipline so too should poetry… I am not trying to lessen the merit of freeform… it stands on its own legs, but most of the time it is what it is prose, however poetic it may be… And for those wanting to pour their heart and soul upon the page… this as Martha Stewart would say “It’s a good thing” I would never discourage that…in fact I would recommend everyone take up writing… and at least learn the rules before disregarding them for effect… I just don’t understand how people can say poetry doesn’t have any rules when it clearly does…

    Didn’t you notice the comment was difficult to read. This was because I disregarded the rules of prose in my effort to explain why certain rules are there. Classic Poetry (and not all forms rhyme) observes certain rules for much the same reason we use punctuation and grammar when writing prose. Most of this is aesthetic and to make a written piece reader friendly. I am sorry just my opinion. I do enjoy reading your post and I’m not trying to criticize. I think you express yourself very beautifully with the written word.

  24. Lori D. Nolasco

    Poetry invites dialogue. I had posted several poems throughout 2012, but finally I am getting some responses. Perhaps the others were poems as well, but I was not doing my part by reaching out.

  25. mishunderstood

    I think what amazes me the most about poetry is that when you write it, every word comes from YOUR heart, mind, memory, experience or emotion, but the reader receives it from THEIR own place, whether it conjures up an opinion they have, a feeling, a situation, etc. When I write, it is something that I need to express. When others enjoy it for whatever their reason, it almost baffles me!!
    Wonderful post. I definitely agree with your criteria of what a poetry is not. 🙂

  26. Nicola Kirk

    Poetry is about as subjective an art-form as you get. What is pleasant to one, may be repulsive, or even meaningless to another – that too, is poetic.

  27. akleneth

    It’s funny, because a friend and I were just talking about this today. My friend backed up a definition he had heard a few days ago. He believes that poetry is something that expresses more than one meaning — more than the obvious, perhaps; something that has more than one layer. Length doesn’t matter. While I believe this is a common opinion, and I even agree with it to some extent, I like your definitions. For me… poetry is very personal; it’s an expression of emotion or of an idea. Some of the poems I write are very symbolic while others are more blatant. The important thing, in my opinion, is that it is sincere.

    I agree with Nicole Kirk; a poem you write and enjoy may be enjoyable and meaningful to someone, but the same poem can fall flat with another. Like art and music, different words speak to each individual differently, because we all have had different experiences. Even a poem we find mediocre in one part of life may become a favorite after some time has passed and different experiences have been gathered. The point is… I believe you should write the poems YOU love, because not everyone is going to be pleased with what you write, (or agree “it’s a poem”) so don’t bother trying. Be sincere, be true to yourself, enjoy writing. And if someone else relates to it…. well, that’s an added bonus for me. And I feel that if you are sincere, someone will almost definitely relate to it or enjoy it.

    Granted, I am pretty new to the poetry world, but these are my thoughts.

  28. Son of Sharecroppers

    Hi, Jennifer,

    I’ve published and taught poetry, and I’ve read it for many years.

    I wrote this piece recently about poetry:

    http://sonofsharecroppers.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/light-takes-the-tree/

    That post begins to express how I feel about the finest poetry. For me, it is certainly the case that I carry around in my head a toolbox of poems, and I use them to carve and shape and filter and understand and reshape the world.

    For me, a poem is not about. A poem is using. A poem is creating. A poem is destroying. A poem is all-encompassing.

    I really enjoy your blog. It’s clear that you are doing the right thing.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  29. toritto

    I don’t know what poetry is either. Never took a writing course. Never studied it in school. Never read it much. Didn’t write anything until about three years ago. Why start? I have no idea; but now I try to write “poetry” anyway.

    Regards

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