What is Poetry? 33 Personal Definitions of Poetry!

Sometimes people want to know what makes a poem a poem. I decided to demonstrate the complexity of completing such a task like defining poetry by putting a call out to my poetry peers and acquaintances to decide what is poetry to them. Wondering what makes poetry itself? Perhaps you can get some idea from the following 33 personal definitions of poetry. Some of these definitions are poems in themselves, some are descriptive, some are prescriptive, but all help to flesh out the character of poetry. So, what is poetry…?

  1. meaning as much as possible without saying as much as usual. Or possibly meaning more than usual by saying less. – Emily Polites.
  2. I honestly don’t know how to end the sentence but I just want to note here that, although meaning as much as possible without saying as much, as usual, is an excellent goal, sometimes I like doing exactly the opposite: seeing just how blathersome and overlong I can make a sentence without meaning anything at all – or meaning something utterly obvious and banal. (For eg. see video below) – Timothy Train.
Poet Michael Reynolds performs ‘Tautologically Speaking’.

3. my diary of pain and laughter – Dollsy Gette.
4. a passion – Rowena Molloy.
5. poetry is boring. – Tim Heffernan.

Poetry is Boring by Tim Heffernan

6. proving less is more – Matt Ryan.
7. the yawning of the soul – Linda Buller.
8. it’s cathartic – Komninos Konstantinos Zervos.
9. it’s giving ideas a voice, or a voice to people you would not otherwise hear, but need to hear if the world is to be a better place – Michael Reynolds.
10. poetry is not what you’re thinking – Brendan Bonsack.
11. poetry makes me stumble – Maria Leonard.
12. a way to spoil a good walk. Oh, wait no that’s golf, sorry – Steven Taylor.
13. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/poetry – Steven Taylor.
14. using words to say things that words can’t usually say – Viki Mealings.
15. the use of language to transcend language – Louise Carter.
16. poetry is to words what vodka is to potatoes – Bronwen Manger.
17. poetry…I also like to call it ‘word fetishism’ – Louise Carter.
18. innate, sometimes inadequate to express what the soul desires – Fiona Stuart.

19. a great question – Richard James Allen.
20. The Thoroughly Modern Poem by Richard Allen. 
21. poetry is pottery’s former lover and poultry’s free-range dreaming – David Stavanger.
21. quoth the raven of Poe try – Nevermore – Jennifer Compton.
22. poetry is life. I have never known the world without it – Elizabeth ‘Lish’ Škec.
23. a place to retreat to when the world gets too loud – Lisa Webster.
24. a fragrance of fresh cloudy morning air with the sun partly shining … a silver lining – Stoyan Stojanovic.
25. for once touched by love, everyone becomes a poet! – Stoyan Stojanovic.
26. a musical use of language – Avigail Halberg.
27. making me smile and slide through the dusty hills while walking, just walking on – Jenny Taylor.
28. those moments in life when your whole body resonates with experience – Henry Briffa.
29. …the slowest way to think, the way to think the slowest thoughts – Es Foong.
30. words … in the right order – Michael Potter.
31. words getting together to talk about how they feel – David De Roach.
32. exploring the world through words – Steve Garvin.
33. impossible to define, but you know it when it happens to you. It resonates through your body and leaves you humming like a tuning fork – Paul South.

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Want To Read More?

You might like to read my other article on Writing Poetry – The Beginner’s Guide!

Want to rethink your theory of creativity? Here’s an article that will get rid of writer’s block for good!

Many thanks to the poets who contributed their definitions for this article.

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