A definitional discussion of poetry and various forms of it
What is poetry?
Poetry tends consist of language arranged into different forms of verse, with features like line/stanza division, rhythmic metre, and rhyme; however, many poems, both historical and contemporary, may not follow any such structure. Poetry is ultimately an ancient and widespread literary phenomenon, present across many cultures throughout time, and it is not mutually exclusive of the other main classifications of literature – many renowned plays consist entirely of verse, and it may occur within certain prose genres too. Broadly, it may be divided into the Classical forms of:
–Lyric – This involves the expression of thoughts and emotions, and characterises the vast majority of poems.
–Epic – These poems chiefly consist of lengthy narratives, such as in the Ancient Greek Iliad and Odyssey, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Old English Beowulf. Modern examples are not especially numerous, due to a preference for prose in constructing such narratives, and they tend to follow looser structural conventions than their predecessors.
–Dramatic – This contains a character’s delivery of speech, such as in the aforementioned verse drama; standalone poems may also be dramatic monologues to a stated or implied listener, such as Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses.
There are many further subdivisions of poetry, mostly based on differences in their structure, including blank verse, ballads, sonnets, haikus, limericks and clerihews, or by their absence of structure as in the case of free verse.