Poetry is vital language. Poetry relies on the writer’s feelings, history and perceptions, so every person has the background needed to write poems. Because poetry draws on the senses and the senses give deep access to memories and feelings, poetry writing is relevant and interesting.
Poetry is ancient. The most primitive peoples have used it, and the most civilized have cultivated it. In all ages and in all countries, poetry has been written and eagerly read or listened to by all kinds and conditions of people by statesmen, lawyers, farmers, doctors, scientists, clergymen, philosophers, soldiers, kings and queens.
In all ages, poetry has been regarded as important, not simply for pleasure, but as something central to each individual’s existence, something of unique value, and something which makes us feel better off for having and which we are spiritually impoverished without.
Initially, poetry might be defined as a language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language. In order to understand this fully, we need to understand what it is that poetry says. Poetic language is employed on different occasions to say quite different kinds of things. Therefore, poetry is language of different uses. While novels, short stories and plays bring us a sense and a perception of life, their concern is with experience. The poet may create new experiences for the reader in which the reader can participate and which will give him or her a greater awareness and understanding of the world.
Poetry is the literary vehicle which is not only an aid to living but a means of living. For example, an encyclopedia can offer information on elephants. You can discover where they live, what they eat and how they breed. This information is only for practical purposes only. You can grasp the ivory of the elephant, but not its soul. The encyclopedia will not touch on its majesty, wild grandeur, strength or power. The poem can turn the elephant from a museum specimen into the highest concrete visual image that comes alive in the mind of the reader. For the living elephant, we must turn to poetry.
Poetry takes all life as its province. Its primary concern is not with beauty, not with philosophical truth, not with persuasion, but with experience. Beauty and philosophical truth are aspects of experience, and the poet is often engaged with them. Poetry as a whole is concerned with all kinds of experience beautiful & ugly, strange & common, noble & ignoble, actual & imaginary.
One of the paradoxes of human existence is that all experience, when transmitted through the medium of art, becomes enjoyable. Even painful experience is pleasurable when poetry romanticizes hard labour, poverty and even death.
Poetry comes to us bringing life, and focuses on giving us a better understanding of life. Between poetry and other genres of literature there is one sharp distinction. Poetry writing is a friend to all writers. Engrossing and honest, poetry extends universally to all members of society. Poetry exists to communicate significant experience imaginatively and creatively, deepening our knowledge of the senses more poignantly.
Poetry can be inspirational on the highest level, when it provides the reader with a precious affair, frequently incandescent, giving off both light and heat. Finally, poetry is a kind of multi-dimensional language. It is directed at the whole person, not just at his understanding. It must involve the reader’s senses, intelligence, emotions and imagination. Poetry achieves its extra dimensions per word by employing devices including metaphor, allusion, sound, repetition, rhythm, irony, symbol, connotation and imagery. Using these resources and the materials of life, poetry, in its highest form, comes alive on the page.
BY I.B. (Bunny) Iskov (the founder of The Ontario Poetry Society).