Advice for Young Writers: Poetry Is Just A Feeling

The poets I know have wildly differing answers to the question, “What is poetry?” Sometimes we can almost agree that poetry is a form of writing that differs from prose, but even that’s up for debate. My personal definition of poetry and how I feel it differs from other forms of writing is this: Poetry is just a feeling. With other forms of writing, you usually have a point, or a story, or some kind of information that you’re trying to convey to the reader. Poetry can be totally pointless. Poetry doesn’t need plot or characters or conclusions. Nothing needs to happen in a poem. It can if you want, and there are lots of poems that have plots and characters, but poetry doesn’t need those things the way other forms of writing really do. Poets give more attention to the sounds of the words, the consonants and the vowel sounds, the rhythm of the lines, the pauses and the breaks. This is because people who read poetry tend to read it aloud in their heads in a way that they don’t when they’re reading other forms of writing. So poetry doesn’t need to rhyme, but poetry should sing, you know what I mean? I write poems when I want to convey something emotionally, rather than intellectually. I don’t have to make sense of it, I can just feel directly on to the page. I can follow a train of thought into absurdity, I can reference my own private jokes, I can completely ignore syntax and grammar. So the reader is generally left with more of an emotional impression than they are left with straight up information. Like when people write odes to celebrate something they love, they’re not trying to use logic to convince you to feel about the thing the way that they feel. They just rhapsodize about the thing, and they hope that that evokes rapture in you. People write political poems to appeal to the feelings in a way a newscast can’t. Poets often use facts in their political poems, but the presentation of the facts is meant to affect you on an emotional level, alongside an intellectual level. So this is just one poet’s opinion about what poetry is. But I hope it inspires you to get out there and feel some poems.

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