What is Poetry?

To start, I believe I will be writing this as a series, exploring different aspects of this question as I move along from one topic to the next.  The end goal will be to find the answer I seek through the journey.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

– Leonardo da Vinci



Perhaps in an effort to define poetry, one must first define art, for poetry is art in written form, and possibly in its purest form.

Simply put, art is the expression of oneself, creatively, through a chosen medium.  It is said that one’s art could be in anything.  We speak of the “science” of things, the idea that something can be reproduced, or recreated, or fixed.  But, in like manner, we have also heard of people elevating a science to an artform.  What does this mean?

I think it is best described in terms of music.  One can teach someone else how to play the violin, the technical aspects of it, how to hold the bow and optimum angle for holding the violin to your chin, the type of violin which might be best, or the strings on the bow.  The music played could also be technical, following a piece as simple as a nursery rhyme, or as magnificent as a Mozart concerto.

So where does the art come in?

The art of the music is not found in the music itself, but in the emotions it evokes.  We can hear Mozart over and over again, played the exact same way, and every person with a violin playing that piece could play it exactly the same way, and so the magic is not found within the technical aspect of playing the music.  Either we will feel because of the music, or we will not.  Either we will get swept up in the wonder of the piece, or we will hate it and never listen to it again.  Here, there is no middle ground.

But what happens when a piece is elevated beyond the technical?  What happens when we hear that same concerto, but with variations in the way it is played?  What happens when an instrument, not originally in the piece, brings the piece to life?  As you read this, you’re thinking of songs you’ve heard, you’re imagining them with different instruments and variations on the tune itself.  You might hear the music slowed, or quickened.  All these things can change the entire meaning of the song.

So what is art?  Is it truly as simple as the evocation of emotion?

Perhaps art is the search for that emotion.  Perhaps art is found within the seeker, as much as in the artist who creates it.  Perhaps art is hidden within the journey.

In order for art to matter, what elements must it have?  Can art be art simply because its creator calls it such?  Or is art in the eye of the beholder, which can and must include the one who formed it in the first place?  I believe the answer to this is that in order for art to be considered as such, it must first be created, and then it must be given its importance by those who seek its truth within themselves.


What is truth, specifically within the realm of this topic?  By using this term, what I mean is the truth of ourselves, those elements hidden within us which can only be unlocked by searching out those difficult, metaphysical and philosophical questions the art brings to our minds.  The art may use truth, or it may use untruth.  It might use that which we can see, or touch, or taste; or it might use a story, a parable or tale woven to elicit a realization – your truth.  Perhaps this is why we have such a hard time defining these things which matter the most to life, but are given such a small importance…or perhaps a big importance, but without ever knowing or understanding.

Stay tuned for Part 2, The Poet.




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