Given World Poetry Day was yesterday, the 21st of March, I figured I’d write a little something about poetry. Which, of course, led me to the very first and most obvious question. Below, you’ll find both question and answer (sort of, not really, maybe, ask me again, and it will change.)
What is poetry?
Poetry has taught me to be concise but if you need more than that, I suppose I can elaborate. Poetry is akin to the ocean. We’ve lived in and around it for thousands of years, we’ve explored it in every way we know how, and as the years go on, the more we realise how little we know. There are unplumbed depths we may never reach. Every time we think we know all the different kinds of poem in the ocean, we see a new poem – a poem that changes gender before our eyes, a poem with a killer neurotoxin beyond our science to counter, a poem with lanterns for eyes, a small poem which breeds thousands more with every breath, a poem that pollinates the very water itself, a poem so perfectly camouflaged we don’t think it’s poetry at all, an infant poem capable of devouring the oldest.
Despite this, people keep asking the question. What is poetry? Has it been catalogued and categorised in its entirety? Have we captured enough poets, tagged them with little yellow numbers, and sent them back into the wilds whence they came and observed how they lived and loved and bred? Ask the wild poets themselves, those hanging from eucalyptus trees, or sailing on the wind, and even they cannot come close to a complete answer. This is because poetry is in constant flux, it is always changing, along with what we know of it. Much like life, you could say.
At least, that’s my spontaneous response. I’m only getting started in the world of poetry, so I’ll keep asking myself the question, and keep answering it, to see what grows and changes and is new in thought or feeling.