Everyone on earth has the ability the rhyme. Does that mean that we are all poets? Or are we all poets and some of us choose to rhyme? Perhaps none of us are poets.
Merriam-Webster defines a poet as “one (as a creative artist) of great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium.” They also define a poet as “one who writes poems.” A person is very capable of writing a poem without having great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium. One of these definitions requires a person to actually write a poem to be a poet. The other encompasses a small group of people with a very specific attribute but does not require any actual poem writing. Is it possible to be a poet without writing a poem? That brings into light the question of “what is poetry?”. The beauty of poetry is that it has no clear definition. A 6-year-old boy can be a poet and a grocery list can be a poem. We all have our own definitions of poetry and poet and that is what makes the art of poetry so diverse and exhilarating!
There is also the question of “what is good poetry?” I once read that “good” art was any art that evoked emotion, even negative emotion.
In high school, I had a teacher who would only accept a poem if it was written in a conventional style that had been previously approved by the poetry Gods. During his class, I came up with my own definition of poetry. Poetry was something that made him cringe.
Growing up we learn that poetry is an exact art. We learn that the way you make a poem is to pick out a form that you want, such as a sonnet or villanelle, and craft a piece of writing by picking out each word specifically so that it fits into your form. We were graded on how well we could copy others work. However, A Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet is exactly that, Petrarchan or Shakespearean.
To me, poetry is the woman at the table of Starbucks who jots down her thoughts on the back of a brown napkin while I read the paper and drink hot chocolate. It’s the young girl in the yellow tank top screaming at her mom out of the window of their silver S.U.V. It’s the things that can’t be said, that shouldn’t be said. It is all the words that were uttered uncomfortably between the barista and the girl with the brown napkin. It is the taboo subjects hidden in forests of forgettable fables and annoying alliteration, the thought that’s in every human beings mind when a tragedy happens, my nieces’ yearly letter to Santa Claus that will only ever be read by her parents, and yes, for all of you formal fiends, the perfectly structured sonnet that expresses a perfectly structured idea.
Poetry is all around us, every second of every day. You’re a poet and you didn’t even know it.