5 Poets on Poetry


Even though many poets have tried defining 'poetry' colorfully by using various metaphors, the genre eludes definition.  Be that as it may, we would like to present to you a list of five poets, from Dickinson to Atwood, with their interesting thoughts and definitions on poetry.  Often enamored with metaphors and laced with imagery, these definitions — both remarkable and amusing — are something we keep coming back to.  


5 Poets on Poetry


“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.  If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” 

— Emily Dickinson


“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.  But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.” 

— T.S. Eliot


“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” 

— Dylan Thomas


“Poetry is not an expression of the party line.  It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” 

— Allen Ginsberg


“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words.  The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.  I don’t think I solve problems in my poetry; I think I uncover the problems.” 

— Margaret Atwood


Please feel free to share your thoughts about the much-read, and at the same time, equally dreaded genre 'poetry' in the comments below.  Do you think 'poetry' is something that can be defined?  Or is it something similar to what Archibald MacLeish thought of when he wrote 'a poem shouldn't mean but be'?  Well, what do you think?





More information on the poets:

  •  Emily Dickinson

  •  T.S. Eliot

  •  Dylan Thomas

  •  Allen Ginsberg

    Margaret Atwood 

Words by Editorial Team The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2020-10-12 at 00:22

Tags Definition  Poetry  Discussion 

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Bibek The PoetBay support member heart!
Thank you, Jim, Joe, and Ken. I appreciate and agree with your ideas and opinions on poetry. And so sorry I forgot Whitman. You see I had to choose 5 poets, and it was a tough choice, really. Hope you understand. Again, I appreciate all the welcoming comments here!


one trick pony The PoetBay support member heart!
Irish poet Louis MacNeice wrote: "Poetry in my opinion must be honest before anything else and I refuse to be 'objective' or clear-cut at the cost of honesty."

ken d williams The PoetBay support member heart!
I believe Walt Whitman should on the list, Bibek. Poetry changes throue out history. Sometimes what was forgot lost. Is Refound & something the poetry form re discovered. Is trread as being a new form, Rap is one treated has totaly new. Yet daites back to ainchant China & Africa.
Ken D

josephus The PoetBay support member heart!
I find poetry or at least the writing of it, to be addictive, afflictive, joyous, painful and above all disarming. For me there is no more self revealing and honest form of expression than poetry. The publishing of it is the ultimate act of trust.

josephus The PoetBay support member heart!
Thanks, Bibek. I especially like T.S Eliot’s take on poetry.

one trick pony The PoetBay support member heart!
thanks for your research, and putting this together, bibek—five interesting takes on the undefinable.