In honor of the last three days of National Poetry month, I've been trying to define poetry so I could share it under the heading "Part-time poet provides key to understanding poetry." You've probably already noticed that this is not the title of the blog post, so, therefore, I do not hold the key. I did, however, write a poem about it.
Metapoem (A poem about poetry)
Poets break open words and hold
Them in a way that shows darkness
And light, but instead of confusion,
Provide comfort in the unfamiliar.
Poets dance with emotions and spin
Them around to make us think we
Are dancing, too, but are only
Watching the poet practice his or
Her steps in an empty room, and we
Sway along to the silent music anyway.
A poem is lost love. The first line is a
Raw memory working toward a
Conclusion, and the last line
Explores the reality that collides
With it somewhere in the middle of a
Hopeless stanza. The unfinished
Script drops us off near a complete
Thought, but we keep reading to see
How it ends, even when we already know,
Because love and language hold us there.
It's not perfect, or complete, but as close as I could come to an explanation. And just to be sure I was on the right track, I asked an expert.
"Alexa, what is the definition of a poem?"
"A poem is usually defined as a composition written in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines."
She provided a satisfying answer, and I thought the two of us had covered the topic pretty thoroughly. But then I found Samuel Taylor Coleridge's definition that blows everything else out of the water: Poetry equals the best words in the best order. Coleridge wins the Best Definition of Poetry award, and I've come to the conclusion that poetry is all of the above, and more.
Mary Horner is a part-time poet, editor, and writer who teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She does not, however, hold the key to understanding poetry; that honor belongs to Samuel Coleridge. She did not mind losing to him because his definition is truly elegant. But losing to Alexa was a whole other thing.