Did You Ever Wonder What Makes "Poetry" Poetry? - Blog

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Did You Ever Wonder What Makes "Poetry" Poetry?

Did you ever ask yourself why poets cannot or will not write poems that can be understood?
Did you ever have an idea for a poem and find that you could not execute it?

Chances are that you were never taught that poetry is not prose, that the "poet" who begins a poem with the deliberate intent of "saying something" is working by the prose process, not by the poetic process.  One does not make poetry with ideas but with words.

If the poet does not start with an idea, how does he or she begin a poem?
How does the poet propel it forward?
How can the poet possibly expect to bring it to a successful conclusion?
What does "meaning" mean in the context of poetry?

Poetry is not only made with words but by words.  Language is self-kindling - it generates further language.  Each word and phrase stimulates the choice of the following words and the sounds and textures of those words.  Yet those words by themselves can propel the poem toward structure and meaning.  Behind the writing of a poem is the esthetic impulse, the desire to create with and by words a disinterested work of art.  It is disinterested because it has no desire to communicate a message (as in the writing of prose) but simply a multi-sensual, artistic, structure.  The artistry of the poem does not spring from what the poem says, but from its "writerly" qualities.

Poetry as a serious art is the art of writing lyric poems in technically good verse and first of all is language, music and form.  Poems so written are proofs of the poetic spirit, which independent of poems can spring involuntarily from the human spirit as manifestations of insight and imagination.  In the context of the poem, "lyrical" derives from the word "lyre" - the musical instrument of classic antiquity - and stands for the element of song or musicality and also embodies other qualities of lyric poems, among them the elements of magic, of the spirit of play, and of the spirit of grace.

The poet loves words for their own sake, for their sensual embodiment of sounds and textures especially.  He or she harnesses the forces and activity of language to dig deeply into the subconscious to find meanings to life's journey formerly inaccessible.  The poetic process frees the poet from the fetters of his or her ego and the defensiveness of the conscious mind so that the poet can explore his or her subconscious, the contents of which are revealed even to the poet as surprises as the poem develops and ends.  Thus, in poetry, meaning arrives impromptu - what was unconscious in the text gathers itself at the end of the poem and becomes the poem's meaning.  Balzac wrote:  "A man does not recognize as his own what he has written as a poet."

Properly written, poems open a window into one's soul.  What is found there may be dark or light, but is always a revelation of something the poet did not know he or she wanted to say.  That revelation, incidentally, may not be the same for the reader as for the poet, but in great poetry has the capacity to change the lives of both.

Robert L. King (reflecting the theory of poetry of his poetry teacher, Jose Garcia Villa)

Vocation: Wall Street Trial Lawyer (Retired)
Avocation: Poetry and Poetics
Studied poetry with Jose Garcia Villa 1970-1997
Writer and Publisher of Poetry


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    Ruth bolton Thursday, 05 April 2012

    Hope this thesis serves to ignite the fire of Villa's theory of poetic expression! Finally, a fresh approach to both the construction and expression of "fine art" poetry.

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