What is poetry?
There are lots of genres and types of poetry, but they all have something in common, that can define them as poetry. Usually, poems have rhythm, meter and rhyming but what’s more important, they use the poetic language – a special combination of words that use all the technical possibilities of the given language to express the feelings. It can be the very sounding of the words, as different sounds invoke different feelings, or word symbolism and heavily metaphoric languages. We know that we read or hear poetry when we are more fascinated not with what is written but how it is written. We are immersed into the word flow, and the ideas that are portrayed in the poem are secondary to the feelings themselves.
Elements of poetry
Of course this broad definition can be divided to the smaller parts. The scientists describe 5 elements of poetry that are essential in defining of this genre.
The first one is rhythm. Rhythm doesn’t always include rhyme. It is more about the line length and the combination of stressed and not stressed syllables that makes the poem pleasant to read. Our mind is naturally affected to rhythm, so, using the faster one can excite us (we read the poem in mind and our heartbeat adjusts) and the slower and steadier rhythm can calm us down.
The second element is imagery. The very idea of poem is to paint for us a picture, not just to tell the news. The eloquent, very symbolic language that will look ridiculous in average conversation is the perfect one for poetry. The poem plays with our associations and subconscious, combining words, seemingly not related to the idea, to precisely describe this very idea.
The third key element of the poetry is sound. As with rhythm, our mind finds some sounds comforting, we just feel that this word sounds “right” and that one is “wrong” or “funny”, even if there are imaginary words. Poets use this to achieve the desired effect. Just try to compare the sentences of two nonexistent languages to get what we are talking about:
“A Elbereth Gilthoniel / Silivren penna míriel / O menel aglar elenath / Na-chaered palan-díriel”
“Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul”
Fourth element of poetry is density. In the poem we usually don’t have plenty of space to describe the idea. So it shall be as short, precise and perfectly articulated as possible. Sometimes one metaphor can mean more than a paragraph, unwrapping the whole bunch of hidden senses. The right choice of words make the poem dense like a neutron star.
The last but not the least element is line. All the poetry, except the most unconventional one, has lines and they are the main frame of everything else. The length of the line dictates the length of the idea you want to put into one sentence and, subsequently, the rhythm. If you manage to make neat and equal lines, the poem is easy to read and the overall harmony is improved. The uneven lines are used for some special effects (to show the exaggeration or unfinished action or something alike) but the norm is even strict lines.
Why is poetry important?
While we don’t have the need to memorize anything by heart as in ancient times, we still use the poetry as language for special occasion. The way to express the emotions that overwhelm us, the language of unspeakable sorrow and heavenly love. Poetry, like music, can be understood by everyone and is one of the most wonderful manifestations of humane in humans. Poetry develops our emotions, empathy and sensitivity, it can fill us with courage or tenderness, be our psychotherapy and inspiration. The world becomes deeper with it.