West Chester University
West Chester University
Home Notes for Introduction to Literature
Notes for Introduction to Literature
~~ Defining Poetry
What is "poetry"? the "poetic"? ~~
Excerpted partially from a compilation by Barry Spacks
ARISTOTLE (from The Poetics):
comes naturally to human beings from childhood; so does the universal pleasure
We take delight in viewing the most accurate possible images
of objects which in themselves even cause distress when we see them (e.g. the
shapes of the lowest species of animal, and corpses). The reason for this is
that understanding is extremely pleasant, not just for philosophers but for
others too in the same way, despite their limited capacity for it. This is the
reason why people take delight in seeing images; what happens is that as they
view them they come to understand and work out what each thing is (e.g., 'This
(from Preface to Shakespeare):
COLERIDGE (from Biographia Literaria):
described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with
the subordination of faculties to each other, according to their relative worth
and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it
were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which we
have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination."
(from Preface to Lyrical Ballads):
the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression
which is in the countenance of all science. Emphatically it may be said of the
poet, as Shakespeare has said of man, "that he looks before and after."
He is the rock of defense for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying
everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and
climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs: in spite of things silently
gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed; the poet binds together by
passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over
the whole earth, and over all time."
"A piece of writing is poetic when it:"
I ask them to take
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse
into a poem
or walk inside
the poem's room
I want them to
But all they want
They begin beating
it with a hose
"A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words."
First published in Robert Frost: The Man and His Work. New York: Henry Holt, 1923. (See Bartleby Archive for more of Frost's work.)
"Poetry...is an ancient art or technology: older than the computer, older than print, older than writing and indeed, though some may find this surprising, much older than prose. I presume that the technology of poetry, using the human body as its medium, evolved for specific uses; to hold things in memory, both within and beyond the individual life span; to achieve intensity and sensuous appeal; to express feelings and ideas rapidly and memorably. To share those feelings and ideas with companions, and also with the dead and with those to come after us."
The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998: 8-9.
Questions? Contact me.
materials unless otherwise indicated are copyright © 2001-2002 by Stacy
FALL 2001 site is available at BRAINSTORM-SERVICES.COM
The original contents of this site may not be reproduced, republished, reused, or retransmitted
without the express written consent of Stacy Tartar Esch.
These contents are for educational purposes only.