Poetry” the word, is a concept of Greek origin. It comes from the greek root “poiesis,” meaning “to make,” or “create.” It is one of the most ancient forms of art and teaching, as numerous civilizations have used it to pass down stories, songs, and histories through both the written and oral tradition.

While it is difficult to trace poetry to a definite beginning, it is likely as old as the human spoken word. The oldest recorded poetry is contained in the cuneiform tablets of ancient Mesopotamia circa 3,000 B.C.

Classical Chinese poetry has its roots in the form of song lyrics dating to 1,000 B.C. Poetry appears in all the major religious canons, such as the Sanskrit Vedas, the Hebrew Tanakh and the Greek Bible.

In the West, poetry has evolved from such ancient Greek masterpieces as Homer’s “Odyssey” and “Iliad” circa 900 B.C., on into the Romantic poetry of Western Europe, and through the modern and postmodern periods to the present.

To give a more personal defintion, poetry is…

  • Mapping thoughts or feelings at the present, and thus becoming more aware of them.
  • Multiplicitous – because it represents different things to different people. Poetry is an artistic conversation which should always be open to interpretation.
  • An evocation of deep, powerful images, filled with the tensions of life.
  • Music – because writing poetry is organizing thoughts and words in a creative, lyrical manner; by collecting the layers and layers of stimulus that flow in and out of the body and mind.
  • Rhythmic and dynamic – just like any form of dialect or language, each poet forms a unique relationship to a syntax and sound; sometimes capturing colloquial linguistic patterns in cliche, while other times creating new ideas and vernacular through innovation of speech and imagery.
  • Animating – through the presence of fresh idiom. Language is shaped and posed in a form that not only expresses the matter at hand but adds to the possibilities of available reality.

Regardless of the amount of originality in language, images, or ideas present, poetry (and creative writing) serves an important function, as a condensed record-keeper of the progression of our language and culture.


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