Everyone has their own idea about what poetry is—depending on what they’ve been exposed to. And I’m quite happy to leave the subject at that.
“Although poetry is a form of self-expression that knows no bounds, it can be safely divided into three main genres: lyric poetry, narrative poetry and dramatic poetry.”
Poetry could include just about the same content seen in Fiction and much non-Fiction, but with an emphasis on sound (maybe) and form (more maybe). People spend entire careers fussing about different poetry definitions. Still, it might be helpful to list a few types:
- Formal: traditional such as sonnet, ballad, villanelle, pantoum.
- Concrete: the shape of the poem on the page refers to the meaning of the poem.
- Language Poetry: written only for the sound of the words, not for any meaning.
Otherwise, poetry is more usefully grouped by the Focus: nature, love. Audience: children, cowboys. And Style: Beat, Rap or however you do it.
If you like definitions, Poetry is:
“…a highly organized, artistic genre of oral or written expression that seeks to instruct, inform, or entertain. Some contemporary writers make a distinction between writing poems and writing poetry; that is, the former produces a discrete object d’art, and the latter is an ongoing process, which can be arbitrarily stopped at any point. It has been said that Pablo Neruda wrote p. not poems.
(Dictionary of Poetic Terms, Jack Myers, Don C. Wukasch, University of North Texas Press.1985.
When we used to have poetry workshops at CCCC, the first question I liked to ask about any poem offered for discussion was: Is this a poem? If yes, then Why/how is it a poem?
What to explore the various types of poetry? Go to Writers’ Digest’s List of 168 Poetic Forms for Poets