Jejudo, South Korea
A while back I argued that poetry is defined by the line break and I still think that is a good working, if not exact, definition of poetry. When someone sees the line break, they think to themselves, "oh, it's a poem" and read it differently than if it were prose.
Now, really all I was doing was conflating 'verse' with 'poetry' but since I don't hear many people saying, "Will you please read my new verse," I stand by it.
Here are a couple dictionary definitions:
a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their sound and the
images and ideas they suggest, not just their obvious meaning. The words are
arranged in separate lines, often ending in rhyme.
Date: 14th century
1 a : metrical writing : VERSE b : the productions of a poet : POEMS
2 : writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of
experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific
emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm
3 a : something likened to poetry especially in beauty of expression b :
poetic quality or aspect
David Lehman has pointed out that anything other than poetry, when described as poetic, is generally considered a good thing. When we say a poem is poetic, we generally mean stilted or artificial. Nice irony there.
When someone says that's not poetry, they mean they don't think it's a good poem.
Then why do these same people (ah, the mythical, abstract 'people' I've never met ) usually say 'good poem' when they read something they like.
Personally, I think it's just an attempt to objectify an opinion -- it sounds more concrete if you will.
the Random House dictionary makes an interesting distinction between poetry and verse:
The difference between poetry and verse is usually the difference between substance and form. Poetry is lofty thought or impassioned feeling expression in imaginitive words. Verse is any expression in words which simply conforms to accepted metrical rules and structure.
Boy, I could have a field day with that one.
So, if people want to keep this distinction, then I suggest we start using this distintion in our comments:
That's a verse -- meaning I don't like what you wrote.
That's a poem -- meaning I like what you wrote.
The word 'poiesis' means a made thing and poets in the middle ages were called simply makers.
So, Ryan, if you take the above definition to heart, your above comment is indeed a poem or a 'made thing'.
I've got a few more definitions to play with but I'll stop here.
I like this question,