Literary Genre Analysis: Poetry
Laurence Perrine refers to poetry as a universal language that is almost as ancient as language itself since “primitive people have used it, and the most civilized have cultivated it” (Perrine 547). The poetry genre in literature is a complex aspect to define due to its authentic and individual nature. It can, however, be described as an imaginative awareness of different kinds of experiences in life that is expressed through a combination of meaning, sound and rhythm to evoke different emotions among the listeners. Poetry can also be described as a literary art which uses language in its evocative and aesthetic qualities to express meaning. It can be written independently or in conjunction with other forms of arts like drama, hymns, or prose in magazines, individual collections, and anthologies.
Famous poets have also given descriptions of poetry through different individual perspectives. Archibald MacLeish in his poem “Ars poetica” states that “A poem should not mean/ but be” (24). On the relevance of poetry in literature, T. S. Elliot observed that: “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly constant evasions of ourselves” (Brainyquote.com).
As a form of expression, poetry has undergone numerous reinventions over time.
In composition and expression, poetry employs various elements of literature that have been evolving over time. The most commonly used elements include theme, denotation and connotation, imagery, figurative language through metaphors, metonymy, symbols, paradox, and allegory, allusions, tone, rhythm and meter, and a variety of musical devices among many other elements.
There are famous poets who have persistently maintained a hold on this genre due to their ingenious compositions since the beginning of writing. Some of the great poets in the modern times include Emily Dickinson who wrote thousands of short ingeniously crafted poems during her lifetime, the great poet and story teller William Shakespeare whose tragedies presented as poetry still continues to be a major scholarly subject, T. S. Elliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost of the “Road Not Taken” fame and many more poets from the ancient times to the present. There are long poems that cover entire volumes of books like Oxford Poetry and many verses of no more than two lines like the “Mad Answer of a Madman” by Robert Hayman:
One asked a mad man if a wife he had
“A wife?” quoth he. “I never was so mad.” (Hayman 1-2).
Poetry, like other genres in literature, does contribute significantly to the development of a good number of aspects in our lives. The genre serves many positive purposes in the society. Besides the fact that poetry is a popular form of entertainment, it may provide an essential element in personal growth like development of language and reasoning skills as well as establish intellectual connections by sparking insightful opinions or innovative ideas. The use of animated imagery is also very helpful in directing the reader to achieve a perception of a simple description of an aspect of life at a higher level. This is usually achieved through symbolism and imagery which are some of the most common stylistic devices used in poetry. Simple and humorous entertainment through the use of cleverly composed pieces like the Hayman piece can be soul lifting and entertaining when perceived on a lighter note. The use of poems to amuse readers with comedies or humorous tales has been a part of human language since its inception. In its relevance to literature and life, poetry uses many forms of communication styles to reach across the world as universal transmitters of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
In conclusion, the poetry genre in literature is one of the most effective communication methods of influencing other people’s ways of thinking. A poet does not need complicated equipments like movie producers do in order to pass a message about life to the audience. All a poet requires is a pen and a piece of paper to leave an impact in people’s lives. A poem can be a few lines long but can convey a variety of themes that can be interpreted in many ways making poetry an influential genre in literature at a higher level. Poems can express themes as diverse as love, tragedies, and expressions of emotional abuse, political opinions, and many others. Poetry documents other people’s feelings at a specific time and can be relevant through many more years to come. Shakespearean tragedies are examples of life experiences in the early times that are still used to understand the present. A poem is never simply vocal but actually a feeling. The single most important function of the poetry genre is to say what needs to be said without trying to impress and without fear. Poetry never changes with trends because it is a solid, timeless and even universal mode of communication.
BrainyQuote.com. T.S. Elliot Quotes. 2001. Web. 4 May 2011.<http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/tseliot112078.html>.
Perrine, Lawrence, ed. Literature, Structure, Sound, and Sense. New York: Harcourt BraceJovanovich, Inc., 1978. Print.
Hayman, Robert. “A Mad Answer of a Madman.” Literature, Structure, Sound, and Sense. Ed.Laurence Perrine. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1978. 708. Print.