Poetry may be a substance. A viscous kind of fluid or more so a gaseous ephemera that occupies one bodies like a poltergeist. That is to say poetry has an intangible quality that is non-translatable. A poem is a thing of itself not a vessel to imbue with meaning (which it may or may not have), nor a mystery, or a puzzle to be solved. We know poetry the tool. The means to voice, space, self. These things are important, and integral to all art forms. But what I’m most interested in now is how poetry as language forms one’s perception. How poetry can recalibrate ones process to meaning, creating a path to critically examine the world and the language that forms it.

This isn’t to necessitate art as transcendence. There’s no need for a greater truth. The materialist world is mysterious, hazardous, and full of contradiction. One may be present in (post)modernity and all the politics involved and still find transformation through poetry. We look at a poem not to find its singular meaning but to reveal how the world may be processed through it.

Eliminate the necessity of linearity. One’s life is not a straight line of events. At this moment I’m typing in my apartment. A dog barks from a neighbor’s yard. A petal drops from the vase of wildflowers on my desk. And still I am in my parents basement playing with an eight-track recorder. A person I’ll never know has sat in the same chair I sit in now 25 years ago. A letter I have yet to send is being read. If we accept all these thing simultaneously we might be able to make progress. We may be able to question more assumptions. Not necessarily time in space. The jumble of physics. Perhaps the underpinnings of our world. Our relationships. The scope of things, as they sprawl out and curve back to meet us.

The way a poem is revealed on a page unlocks the ultimate potential of language. It taps our conscious, unconscious, subconscious. The reader’s reality meets with the poems reality. A great exchange occurs; we take the our connotations to language and relationship to subject and intertwine them. A rebirth occurs. A revelation or simply a thought that floats above us. Both the reader and the poem are left changed.

A poem is a verb essentially. It is an act. A moment, many moments, all moments. A poem does something to a reader. It acts upon the reader. Poetry is language at play, unbound, unmoored, resentful of anyone attempting to curtail it. This is what excites me and propels my love of poetry. The relentless shifting and changing, something truly essential to being human.


Vincent James Perrone is the author of Starving Romantic (11:11 Press, 2018) and cofounder of the 51 W. Warren Writers Group. He lives and works in Detroit and is a graduate of Wayne State University. He sometimes writes things on twitter @spookyghostclub


  1. Great definition of poetry!

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