Redefining Poetry: My Liberated “Definition” and the Experience That Formed My Final Conclusion
(by Christina Anne Taylor)
It’s a progressive process as our experience shapes our perception in positive ways, and a gift to the heart as the perpendicular mind also expands to accept broader possibilities. In poetry, it wasn’t so long ago that I acquired the narrow-minded view that poetry must be an exercise of mind, a demonstration of mastery of form and structure. I suppose that’s because I was one who could apply the rules of a given form relatively quickly and painlessly. Furthermore, despite the necessary skill, sophistication isn’t required for versifying or formal “word play,” so I qualified, and like all writers who take their craft seriously, I wished to establish my place, so to speak – just like everyone else who discovers their “destiny” in poetry only to learn in time that there are a million other living poets with similar aspirations.
It took me a while to descend from my high horse and accept that my own smallness in poetry was very real. It was the discovery of my smallness that helped me to let go of the competitive edge (which was at times defensive and at times offensive, and almost always uncharacteristically aggressive). In my smallness, I became capable of stepping beyond myself and realizing the satisfaction, the joy derived through helping others to share their poetry.
Spending time as a micro-publisher has opened both my mind and my heart (not of polite necessity but of innate impulse), and has helped me to reshape my own definition of poetry. As a non-competitor whose ego fell some time ago and only rears its head when another ego taps its shoulder for play, I no longer need to justify a narrow definition that is exclusive of most everything that doesn’t resemble my own style. I have come to the common conclusion that there are as many acceptable definitions of poetry as there are poets and readers of poetry – and that’s okay. So it is my opinion that if it was written with the intent of being poetry (however “good” or “bad”), then it is poetry in the mind of the poet who crafted it, and that’s all that really matters. If you call it poetry, then I respect your personal definition and the fact that within your perception, my definition does not apply.
That said (and moving into the emotional realm), I give more credit to heartfelt expression than I once did, because I have been more moved by a lot of free verse than by villanelles and sonnets (etc.) which do not aspire to touch people’s hearts so often as to impress their minds with skill. It is a desire to establish one’s respectability in literature rather than to share a bit of one’s heart by way of words. I have spent my time analyzing the execution of poetic structures for my own self-satisfaction, for my ability to “connect” on a literary level of order. But I no longer need to judge poetry – I need to feel it!
To form-crafters, poetry is the music of mind. I prefer to call it the music of the heart, the song of emotion as it fuses with language (regardless of technique), and as a glimpse of life experience and/or an expression of creativity, it is that which is worthy of recording and sharing with anyone who wishes to listen.
Though I will undoubtedly respect and play in form and meter for the rest of my life, it will be a far greater challenge – a real exercise of courage – to let go of my literary crutches and stand on the strength of my thoughts alone, and to let them shape my lines as they will.