What is Poetry, Meaning of Poetry, Definition of Poetry/Poet, Transformation of Poetry, Philosophy in Poetry

  • What is poetry?
  • Definition of poetry/poem.
  • Meaning of poem/poetry.
  • Types of Poetry
  • Forms of Poetry

Poetry is a literary work or a genre of literature in which expressions, ideas, imaginations, thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc are expressed musically and passionately using styles, rhetoric, rhythm, diction, aesthetic ornaments and figurative languages. 

William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads (1798) beautifully defined poetry as -
" Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility ".

It is a way of expression by using words. The words are precisely chosen and perfectly arranged as S.T.Coleridge said " Poetry; the best words in the best order ".  Literary devices like rhyme, rhythm, meters, symbols, imagery, etc and figurative languages like simile , metaphor, alliteration, personification, etc are used effectively to present those words in a beautiful, melodious and attractive way. 


● Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Dante's The Divine Comedy, Virgil's The Aeneid, Beowulf (by anonymous), Milton's Paradise Lost , Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, T.S.Eliot's  The Waste Land, etc are regarded as the classical poems in english literature.

Some famous definitions of poetry: 

Samuel Johnson -

" Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help of reason ".

Emily Dickinson -

" If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can 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 ".

Robert Frost –

"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words ".

T.S.Eliot -

" 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 ". 

Transformation in poetry-

Poetry is the oldest form of literature (like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Ved, Gita, etc). It has sailed through ages and has witnessed many changes. Generally, poetry is considered to be a "metrical composition" (said by Dr. Johnson). The Romantic Age (1798-1832) in English literature brought revolutionary changes in the language, style and diction of poetry. There was a shift of language in poetry: from metrical language to the language of common man or prosaic language. 

With the introduction of blank verse and free verse ; the writing style of poetry changed drastically. Poetry need not be metrical anymore! Now, we can find classic poems without meters and rhymes. The modern and contemporary poets are composing poetry in a totally new, different and unique style. Change is the law of nature and poetry has always evolved with time. 
The writing style, form, diction and language might have changed but the essence of poetry has always remained the same. 

Philosophy in poetry- 

Poetry is the rebirth of life and regeneration of mankind. It is personal; it is social; it is universal. It reaches from personal to universal and converts universal into personal, as Aristotle said " Poetry tends to express the universal ".
It has the power to transcend (Emerson in Brahma), to transport (Arnold in Dover Beach) and to transform (Aurobindo in Transformation). It can be the guide as well as the enjoyment of life as Horace said poetry is to " instruct and delight ". The magic of poetry remains forever.
So we can say-

'When the heart is fired-up with high emotions and feelings ,
When the brain is overloaded with thoughts and ideas ,
When knowledge leads to creativity and imagination' - that is the time when poetry begins!

There have been a lot of attempts to define poetry but no one could define it perfectly. There cannot be any exact definition of poetry. No one can define truth, no one can define beauty, similarly, no one can define poetry as well. 
As John Keats in his poem Ode on a Grecian Urn says-
" Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know ".


Who is a poet?
Work of a poet.
Great Poets

The person who composes a poem is called a poet. A poet pens down his/her heart or mind on a paper using magical words in a melodious (or free) and unique way- that is what we call a poetry and the work- a poem. A poet uses different layers of meanings and literary devices in his/her poems: use of normal words with deeper meanings by using aesthetic qualities and figurative languages. A poet is said to be successful when he/she is able to ignite the targeted emotions and feelings in the heart and mind of the reader after reading the poem.


● Poets like Homer, Dante, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Robert Frost, Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Rabindranath Tagore, W.B.Yeats , T.S.Eliot, etc have become immortal with their poetry.

Types and Forms of Poetry, Poetry, Meaning of Poetry, Definition of Poetry


You cannot wear one type of dress for all occasions: like for weddings, funerals, meetings, casuals, rituals, etc. Similarly, one form of poetry cannot be used for all types of poems. There are different types and forms of poetry which a poet uses to compose various poems as per the need and requirement of the contexts. 


Types of poetry- 

Elegy- to mourn. Adonais by P.B.Shelley, "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman.

Ode- to sing. Ode To A Nightingale by John Keats, Ode To Wine by Pablo Neruda.

Ballads- dance songs. Annabel Lee by E.A.Poe, Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling.

Epic- to narrate. Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Rape Of The Lock by Alexander Pope.

Ekphrasis- to describe. My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, Ode On A Grecian Urn by John Keats.

Forms of poetry- 

Couplet- 2 lines. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, One Happy Moment by John Dryden.

Haiku- 3 lines. Old Pond by Basho, Thirds by Jeffrey Winke.

Ottava rima- 8 lines. Don Juan by Lord Byron , Sailing To Byzantium by W.B.Yeats.
Sonnet- 14 lines. "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?" by William Shakespeare, "Death be not proud" by John Donne.

Villanelle- 19 lines. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas, Mad Girl's Love Song by Sylvia Plath.

(The  list  is  long). . .


We will discuss different types/kinds of poetry and different forms of poems in detail, one by one, in our upcoming articles.


To understand different types and forms of poetry it is very much essential to have the knowledge of literary/poetic devices: like rhyme, rhythm, meter ,simile, metaphor, alliteration, etc. Therefore, we will give you the prior knowledge of  literary devices before explaining different types and forms of poetry for your convenience. 

Enjoy life! 



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  1. Thanks for this knowledgeable article.

  2. Very interesting content and precised way of explaining. I loved it


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