Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Wordle: Poetry is...What is poetry?

Writers, scholars, and everyday-you-and-me have had this conversation since words,  and poetry began.

Poets have been answering this question with elusive, fluttering, fleeting answers forever.
They have filled scrolls and books,declaring the mystery of poetry,  attempting to define its undefinable nature.

There is a name for writing or poetry that attempts to answer this question.  

Ars Poetica

Or the The Art of Poetry.

Edward Hirsch, editor of Poet's Choice, defines Ars Poetica in the following way:

The ARS POETICA is a poem that takes the art of poetry as its explicit subject. It proposes and aesthetic. Self-referential, uniquely conscious of itself as both a treatise and a performance,  the great ars poetica embodies what it is about.

Horace (Roman poet- 65 B.C.- 8 B.C.) gave us the first-known Ars Poetica.  His poem on poetics published in 18 B.C. is the grandfather and model for all others that come after.

In his poem, which is most often translated into prose in English, he offers advice to young poets--much of which stands at the foundation of writing and teaching of poetry still today.

As is painting, so is poetry: some pieces will strike you more if you stand near, and some, if you are at a greater distance: one loves the dark; another, which is not afraid of the critic's subtle judgment, chooses to be seen in the light; the one has pleased once, the other will give pleasure if ten times repeated. -  Click here to read more of Horace's Ars Poetica  

His treatise offers advices on a variety of topics, including technique, tradition, creative invention of form, and audience.

So with him begins the longstanding tradition of poets and others writing about poetry--writers writing about writing. 

Many of my favorite poets and yours have followed in his footsteps and tried to capture-- in words, in rhymes, in verses and stanzas--the nature and phenomena that is poetry.

Many have tried to define the entity that is a poem.

Czeslaw Milosz adds a question mark to his title, Ars Poetica?   and questions the source of poetry and how we maintain our identity as we write:

The purpose of poetry is to remind us   
how difficult it is to remain just one person,   
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,  
and invisible guests come in and out at will.
Emily Dickinson warns us in Poem #1129 to approach the Truth we want to tell carefully:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm
DelightThe Truth’s superb surprise

And Blaga Dimitrova tells us in her Ars Poetica to
Write each poem as if it were our last.

Pablo Neruda  shares the following:
 Poetry arrived in search of me... my heart broke loose on the wind.
Are you curious? Do you want to read more Ars Poetica?

This Art: A Copper Canyon Ars Poetica Anthology (Copper Canyon Press Anthology) edited by  Michael Wiegers offers many selections in this form allowing you to drink in the variety of possibilities and gather ideas for you own poem about poetry, your own Ars Poetica. 

And Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry edited by Dennis O'Driscoll offers short statements on poetry that will feed your imagination--causing you to nod your head in agreement, scratch your head in  puzzlement, and purse your lips in total discontent.  

What is poetry?

How do you define it?

What does it  do for you, to you ?

How and why do you write poetry (or whatever else you write)?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

 Read several Ars Poetica poems or essays.

Click here for an article, Ars Poetica: Poems about Poetry to learn more about this form and to read  many examples.

Try writing your own poem about writing and poetry-- your own Ars Poetica.

You may focus on defining poetry or how it affects you.  You may want to emphasize the role of poetry in the world or politics or some other aspect..   

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