poetry

What is Poetry?

. . . it is not meters, but a meter-making argument that makes a poem,—a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form. The poet has a new thought; he has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune. For the experience of each new age requires a new confession, and the world seems always waiting for its poet.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Poet

Instant Poetry Exercise: Creation

A way to create instant poetry. Write one or more lines for each of the following prompts:

  1. Think of something―any noun. Write it down.
  2. Plant it as a seed in the ground. What will it grow into?
  3. As its Creator, ask a question the seed must answer in order to be born.
  4. As the seed, answer.
  5. As Creator, command it.
  6. The seed grows. In the voice of the new thing that has grown, define yourself.
  7. Someone passes by, sees the new entity, and exclaims: “________________!”
  8. Above all, the new entity wants ________________.
  9. Uh oh. ___________ wants the opposite, and hurls ___________ at the new entity.
  10. As witness to this act of creation, respond to what you’ve encountered here.

“Here the frailest leaves of me”

Here the frailest leaves of me
 

Here the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting,
Here I shade and hide my thoughts, I myself do not expose them,
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

The Passions of Poetry

I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. . . . [However,] the Poet ought to profit by the lesson held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions . . . should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. Now the music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome, and the blind association of pleasure which has been previously received from works of rhyme or meter of the same or similar construction . . . —all these imperceptibly make up a complex feeling of delight, which is of the most important use in tempering the painful feeling always found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper passions. This effect is always produced in pathetic and impassioned poetry; while, in lighter compositions, the ease and gracefulness with which the Poet manages his numbers are themselves confessedly a principal source of the gratification of the Reader. All that it is necessary to say, however, upon this subject, may be effected by affirming, what few persons will deny, that, of two descriptions, either of passions, manners, or characters, each of them equally well executed, the one in prose and the other in verse, the verse will be read a hundred times where the prose is read once.

William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads

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Streams of Consciousness:

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