Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words. Paul Engle
A great writer has the power to curate words in such a way to give them power, to give them substance past their individual meaning. The writer can choose to organize such words into poems about a whole range of emotions and feelings.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, poetry is “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”.
Poetry as an art form can be either written or spoken and be molded to fit different types of poetic forms. Some of the most common poetry styles are a sonnet, limerick, haiku, narrative, epic, couplet, acrostic, and free verse. Within these types of poems, the writer may also include techniques such as writing in iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme, or hexameter.
Poetry has been used to share stories throughout most of history. (Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash)
The range of topics touched on by iconic poets is vast. Maya Angelou, Wolfgang von Goethe, Pablo Neruda, and W. B. Yeats are all exemplary poets and have all written about completely different themes. Stanzas have been written to convey everything from words of wisdom to true love, and even sorrow. Good poetry and literature can express a range of emotions and feelings.
Writers across time, from Lao Tzu to Rupi Kaur, have been able to bring words together in such magnificent ways that the quotes created have become legendary. Maybe one day you will be able to compose verses worthy of becoming legends themselves!
Keep reading to learn what a couple of great American poets think about the art of poetry and what quotes from some of the best-known poems really mean.
Different forms of poetry have been known to predate literacy in ancient societies. Spoken poetry has been used to record law, stories, history, and genealogy. Using verses, whether spoken or written, to convey cultural information has become engrained into most of our lives.
Here is what some of the greatest American poets have to say about poetry…
Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does. Allen Ginsberg
Best known for being part of the Beat Generation of poets in the 1950s, Allen Ginsburg was a prose poet and author. His best-known piece, Howl, resounded with many Americans at the time of its publication because it expressed the frustrations about the social conditions of the time.
In the above quote, Ginsburg explains that prose and poetry are able to take the private world and make it public, and that is exactly what he did when publishing Howl. He was able to voice the disappointment towards the prejudice and intolerance felt by so many young people and minorities at the time.
Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg, a poet laureate, was a major figure in contemporary literature in the early 20th century as well as a winner of three Pulitzer Prizes. His appreciation for poetry and his knack for connecting to so many parts of American life at the time earned him the title of the “voice of America”.
According to Carl Sandburg, poetry is our attempt at breaking barriers. (Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things. T.S. Eliot
Known to many through his poetry, T.S. Eliot was not only a poet but an essayist, publisher, playwright, and literary and social critic. His works such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday contributed to his Noble Prize in Literature. Eliot’s poetry had a great impact on Anglo-American culture beginning in the 1920s. He experimented with poetic diction, alliteration, and different poetic techniques shattering orthodox rules about poetic structure.
I would define … the Poetry of words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Edgar Allan Poe
You might know Edgar Allan Poe from his short stories and poems such as The Raven or The Tell-Tale Heart. His mysterious and sometimes scary works became instant classics and launched Poe as one of the central figures of the Romanticism period in US literature.
Poetry has become a vehicle of expression for these greats in American poetry, but this art is not only reserved for the legends. You can take a swing at writing poetry as well!
If these inspirational quotes make you want to explore and read poetry, check out what online sources or books might have content that sparks your interest. These collections include everything from classic poems to contemporary poetry.
If you are already a poet but would like to better connect to your readers, it would be a good idea to look into a writing coach or a poetry tutor to bring your poems to the next level. Superprof has dedicated poetry tutors ready to share their words of wisdom with you.
I can’t say the words, so I wrote you into my verse. Now you’ll live through the ages. Poet by Bastille
Certain lines on poems throughout times have surpassed the lives of their authors and lived through the ages, some long enough to become infamous. Poetry’s long and prosperous history has led a few lines out of millions written to be immediately recognizable and part of common knowledge.
Here are some of the most famous lines that every self-proclaimed poetry guru should know. Do you recognize any of these?
To be or not to be: that is the question
Many of the best-known poetry quotes come from Shakespeare’s playwrights. (Photo by Inset Agency on Unsplash)
This is probably one of the most quotable lines in poetry history. This line has been quoted in a variety of works, everything from the Star Trek movies to even “ The Night Before Christmas”. Brought to us by no one other than the iconic William Shakespeare, this quote is one spoken by Hamlet himself in Hamlet the play.
In this quote, Hamlet is asking whether to deal with one’s issues by living though them is worse than to simply die and not have to deal with anything at all. This line has resonated with people in the past, present, and will most likely be applicable in the future.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the road less traveled by.
Written by American Poet Robert Frost, this line comes from the poem “The Road Not Taken”. Frost alludes to the path of life rather than a physical path on the road and having to choose which path you are going to take when arriving at a fork. The poem is easily misinterpreted but if you pay close attention to the lines, Frost actually admits that he be telling people about having taken the “road less traveled” in order to be presented in a better light but in actuality, he doesn’t take that road.
Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
You might have heard this line directed at someone going through heartbreak. It is one of the lines of the poem, In Memoriam A.H.H., which took a staggering 17 years to write by Alfred Lord Tennyson. In the poem, Lord Tennyson reflects on the themes of death, loss, and love through expressing his feelings after the loss of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam. The poem also contains the line Nature, red in tooth and claw, which is another recognizable quote on the cruelty of nature and death.
The above quotes are just a few of the quotes that have become part of our English vernacular. Whether you see them in newspaper headlines or referenced in your favorite movie, it is important to note that these great phrases came from poetry.
If you feel inspired by the immortality of these lines and would like to share your own poetic verses, there are plenty of online websites to submit your work to.
In addition, if you feel like your verses are worthy of notable recognition, there are a large variety of poetry contests that might interest you.