Poetry is a form of literary art which uses the aesthetic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes.
"Religious" is one of the last adjectives one would ordinarily use to describe Robert Frost's poetry. The individual self, which is its central reality, feels completely cut off from any "divine" reality beyond its own spiritual elements of love, courage, and creativity. Yet the speaker in the poetry keeps alive the possibility that something greater than man sustains order and purpose in the universe and may sometime break through man's isolation to reveal itself.
Science and poetry are two ways of communicating experience. Sociology in the past several decades has made greater use of science and the technology of the computer age, while the humanistic and artistic perspectives toward understanding human behavior have not been sufficiently used in our profession. Poetry offers special insights and provides a unique, effective means of expression. Poetry offers new insights, stimulates thinking, and contributes to a holistic education when used both in lectures and with paper assignments.
Nommo, the generative power of the word, is a delivery style distinctive to African Americans. Nommo is manifested in characteristics unique to African orality. They include rhythm, soundin' out, repetition, stylin', lyrical quality, historical perspective, indirection, call and response, protests against the White establishment, and mythication. One of the ways to study orality is to examine the contemporary art of spoken-word poetry.
Documentation for a history of sound poetry is paradoxically both hard to find and overly abundant. Much of this material is published in limited editions by small or handmade presses, many of them in Europe. Around 1967, Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars-Gunnar Bodin of Sweden coined the term text-sound composition to describe their work and the work of others they believed were creating a new art "which expresses feelings, values and conceptions of life which are characteristic for our own time, and this means that it is often stamped and partially created by the new technology."
A renaissance in literature and art took place in the People's Republic of China from the late 1970's through the 1980's. In poetry, the outburst of vitality first showed itself in 1978-80 in the underground Today (Jintian) group, which included cofounders and editors Bei Dao (b. 1949) and Mang ke (b. 1951), and such contributors as Jiang He (b. 1949), Shu Ting (b. 1952), Gu Cheng (1956-93), and Yang Lian (b. 1955), to name only a few of the best-known in the West. Today lent momentum to the flourish of Menglongshi, commonly translated as "Obscure Poetry" or "Misty Poetry," in the early 1980's and became the major source of inspiration--no less than the target of criticism and revolt--to post-Menglong poetry in the second half of the decade.
Contemporary critics who study women's literature often focus on the very act of speaking, or the possession of a voice. This focus is particularly common in Chinese poetry in which expressive-affective poetics is predominant. The speaker in a poem seems to lend the women of her time a convincing voice to express their feelings, thereby giving a feminine perspective on social and cultural aspects of life.
The practice of poetry slams--competitive versions of poetry readings currently staged in bars, bookstores, coffeehouses, universities, and theaters across the country--can inform the fields of literary studies and performance studies alike. Almost all slam poetry is written in first person, is narrative, and --because it is delivered in a performative format--usually aims to be comprehensible upon a first listen. Devices such as homophonic word play, repetition, singing, call and response, and rhyme are frequently used on the slam stage.
Poetry is an inclusive art, demanding all of the senses for composition, understanding, teaching, and appreciation. Poetry welcomes opportunities for discovery beyond the page. Our reading, understanding, and enjoyment of poetry can grow exponentially through interdisciplinary study and discovery within our classrooms, beyond our classrooms and departments, and beyond our buildings in collaboration with other schools.
The poet's sense of duty toward language, apart from his sense of social responsibility, determines his choice of means. Language is metaphysical, and often rhyme reveals the interrelatedness of notions and situations in the language that are not registered by the poet's rational consciousness. Sound--the poet's ear--is a form of cognition, of synthesis, that does not parallel analysis but encompasses it. In simple terms, sound is semantic, often more so than grammar; and nothing can articulate the acoustic aspect of a word better than poetic meter.
Poetry communicates universal human truths. It is an instrument to make us see life and live it more intensely. All too often, however, poetry is received in a hostile spirit, for poetry, by its very nature, is often difficult to comprehend.