Part I: What is it?
by Fran Claggett

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Emily Dickinson said, “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;” and Gertrude Stein said, “What is prose, and if you know what prose is, what is poetry?”

Perhaps the characteristic most central to the definition of poetry is its unwillingness to be defined, labeled, or nailed down. But in this space, from month to month, we will be looking at various aspects of what poetry is, giving you some guidelines to determining not only what poetry is in the larger sense of definition, but what you can use as you engage in that most basic aspect of writing a poem: understanding such things as imagery, form, line length, stanza pattern, and metaphor, to list just a few of the elements of poetry.

Meanwhile, one of the most definable characteristics of the poetic form is economy of language. As Keats said:
Beauty is truth. Truth, beauty.
That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know.

How’s that? Do we have a definition yet? Stay tuned.