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What Is Poetry?

Take a look at the following definitions of poetry. As these quotes show, there's no one way to write poetry. Which of these quotes ring true to you? What is your personal definition of poetry?

"Poetry is the first thing lost in translation."—Robert Frost

"I would define poetry as the rhythmical creation of beauty." —Edgar Allen Poe

"...speech framed...to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning..."—Gerard Manley Hopkins

"...a verbal artifact which must be as skillfully and solidly constructed as a table or a motorcycle..."—W.H. Auden

"A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it...by way of the poem itself, all the way over to the reader."—Charles Olson

"Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn."—Thomas Gray

"Poetry puts the infinite within the finite."—Robert Browning

"Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge."—William Wordsworth

"Poetry is the power of defining the indefinable in terms of the unforgettable."—Louis Untermeyer

"Not philosophy, after all, not humanity, just the sheer joyous power of song, is the primal thing in poetry."—Max Beerbohm

"Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking."—Paul Valery

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful."—Rita Dove

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?"—Emily Dickinson

"Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history."—Plato

"Poetry is not the record of an event; it is an event."—Robert Lowell

"Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It�s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that�s what the poet does."—Allen Ginsberg

"Poetry is a drama in which objects are cut loose from their moorings and sent flying to make their own connections."—Louis Simpson

"I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat."—A.E. Houseman

"The wisest definition of poetry the poet will instantly prove false by setting aside its requisitions."—Thoreau

"What can we do with a definition of poetry that we cannot do without one?"—Peter Turner


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