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What Is Poetry?

Unless you are looking in the dictionary for a good definition of poetry, we'd really like to say that poetry has no one set definition because it can mean so many things to different people. Shadow Poetry defines poetry as the art of writing thoughts, ideas, and dreams into imaginative language which may contain verse, pause, meter, repetition, and/or rhyme.

To get technical, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poetry as:

po·et·ry     noun     \'po-?-tre, -i-tre also 'po?(-)i-tre\

1. a: metrical writing : verse
    b: the productions of a poet : poems

2. writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language
    chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound,
    and rhythm

3. a: something likened to poetry especially in beauty of expression
    b: poetic quality or aspect

Poet - is one who writes poetry.

Poem - is a written expression of emotion or ideas in an arrangement of words/verse most often rhythmically.

Bard - a poet.

Muse - a channel of inspiration for a poet.

Muses, in Greek mythology, were the nine daughters of the god Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. The Muses were believed to inspire not only poets, but all artist.

Nine Goddesses:

  • Calliope: muse of epic poetry
  • Clio: muse of history
  • Erato: muse of love poetry; also known as the muse of music
  • Euterpe: muse of lyric poetry
  • Melpomene: muse of tragedy
  • Polyhymnia: muse of sacred poetry
  • Terpsichore: muse of choral songs and the dance
  • Thalia: muse of comedy
  • Urania: muse of astronomy

Mechanics of Poetry:

broken rhyme - (split rhyme) result of dividing a word at the end of a line to force a rhyme. Example: in order to rhyme stain with raincoat one must end a line with "rain-" and carry "coat" to the next line of verse.

chain rhyme - rhyming scheme where the line of the first stanza is linked to a rhyme in the next stanza, (aba bcb cdc..., aaba bbcb ccdc..., etc.), ending stanza loops back to the first stanza or ends with the last rhyme repeated (aba bcb cdc dad, aaba bbcb ccdc dddd, etc.).

Iamb - a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, a short or unaccented syllable followed by a long accented syllable.

Iambic Pentameter - made up of two syllables repeated five times in succession where an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable within a line of verse.

Meter - a measure of rhyme; (the unit of meter is the foot) Metrical lines are named for the number of feet in a line. (1) monometer, (2) dimeter, (3) trimeter, (4) tetrameter, (5) pentameter, (6) hexameter, (7) heptameter (8) octameter.

Pause - intervals between syllables of verse.

Stress - special emphasis on a word, syllable, or phrase with a line of verse.

Versification - in regard to meter and rhyme, versification is the art of writing verses.


Figures of Speech:

Imagery - to evoke a mental image (sometimes emotional), figurative language.

Irony - expression of words used to convey an opposite meaning from the usual sense.

Metaphor - a term used to treat two things that are not the same as equals such as "The universe is God's playground".

Oxymoron - the joining of two words that seem to be contradictory (opposites), but offer a unique effect such as living deaths, freezing fires, deafening silence, and pretty ugly.

Personification - a form of metaphor where an inanimate object, animal, or idea is given human-like characteristics such as "Night swallowed the sun's last ray of light".

Prose - ordinary or plain everyday language used in speech or writing with no patterns or rhymes.

Pun - a play on words that sound similar for a humorous effect.

Repetition - a repeating sound, line, syllable, etc. bring reinforcement to the meaning of a poem, fulfillment.

Rhyme - a recurrence of similar ending sounds at the ends of a poetic line/verse.

Simile - a comparison between two unlike things using like or as, etc. such as "Your eyes are like sparkling diamonds."


Verse Forms:

* A verse can be one line of poetry or a stanza.

Alexandrian - a line of poetry 12 syllables (or 13 if the last syllable is unstressed) consisting 6 iambic feet.

Blank Verse - poetry written without rhymes usually in iambic pentameterin English verse.

Chain Verse - like chain rhyme, but instead of linking rhymes, words, phrases or lines are repeated in succeeding stanzas.

envoy (envoi) - a short final stanza of a poem.

Free Verse - a verse form free of traditional rules of versification, (freedom from fixed meter or rhyme).

Open Form - created through shifts, leaps, hesitations, and fragmentations in lines. It conforms to no set form, structure,or rhythmic patterns.

Refrain (chorus) - a repeated verse within a poem or song pertaining to a central topic.

Stanza Forms - names describing the number of lines is an stanzaic unit, (2) couplet, (3) tercet, (4) quatrain, (5) quintet (6) sestet, (7) septet, (8) octave.


Poetry Is... Quotes:

"the hieroglyphs of the heart... the only language i completely understand." - Erica Fay

"Poetry is to do with moments...." - Robin Marchesi

"Poetry to me is a complete release of my unhappiness, joys, and my inner soul whispers." - Masenn Jonsin

"Poetry is the expression in language of all that is beautiful, painful, real, and imagined that makes life worth living." - Theresa King

"the written form of self...
[and even if i hate the words, i can't deny the letters]" - Jacklyn Bennet

"Poetry is the highest form of human expression." - Dave Charlon

"Poetry is the voice of the id's insanity - needed to keep the subconscious' demons from surfacing in other malignant forms." - Christine Ann Kelley

"Poetry is...

#1 The echo's of life
#2 The souls voice
#3 Emotional hieroglyphics" - B. R. Jording

"Poetry to me is an outlet. It is the only way I can express my inner most thoughts and feelings and still be able to feel good and smile." - Jody Kuperavage

"Poetry is the bleeding of a poets soul, a release of emotions." - Marie Summers


If you are having trouble finding that perfect rhyme or a
better word for your poem, visit the RhymeZone.

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Introduction   |   What Is Poetry?   |   Poetry Quotes   |   Traditional Poetry Forms   |   Invented Poetry Forms
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