I find poetry to be the most liberated literary art form in the English language. Poetry is the art form that the writer has license to bend and break grammatical and spelling rules. Poetry is the anvil where ideas can be forged and molded with the least contamination of conventions.
With freedom comes responsibility. Without the structure of grammar and spelling, some people can find it pretty difficult to communicate an idea. It can be like a cow that breaks through a fence only to find it has no palace to go. This challenge can be compounded if the reader needs grammatical structure to make sense of language. Some readers may find that “alternative spellings” are like fingernails scraping the black board.
The objective of any literature should be to communicate ideas or feelings. Why go to the trouble of creating a piece of literature if one doesn’t want to communicate? And if the creator doesn’t want to share it with others, then I don’t know why we need to care about the resulting literature.
Poetry allows us to experiment with a wider range of literary tools than are typically used in other forms. We can use repetition to advantage when it would be frowned upon in other styles. We can use sounds, as in onomatopoeia, where the gate keepers in other styles might see such form as childish. We can use cadence to adjust the flow of an idea. We can use rhyme to help the reader remember the lines. Where flowery language might be frowned on as excessive wordiness in one literary genre, it can find it’s tribe in poetry.
Poetry really comes into its own when it is read by a writer who can translate the intended feeling. This is enhanced when it is mixed with music and/or visuals. In these formats the poetry can be liberated from the two dimensions of the written word into the multi-dimensional main way that humans have communicated for millennia, verbal communication.
There are many styles of poetry. New ones are being created. Other cultures and countries have poetry that comes from the experiences of their creators. Because the lives of humans are quite similar, there is usually some benefit from sharing these poems. Because words are just symbols of thought which usually carry more noise than signal, things often get lost in translation. Yet there is benefit in the exploration of the poetry of other cultures.
The most critical component of a poem is the idea or feeling the creator wants to communicate. The more poetic tools that creator can apply to that idea to move those ideas or feelings from one head to another, the better the poem. Poetry, unencumbered by the constraints of grammar and spelling, can be a great way to communicate sensitive, complex and difficult ideas.
Featured image by Lars Schmidt under the creative commons license on Flickr.