By Torrance Grey on February 13, 2018
Poetry: It's gotten a bad reputation in recent decades as the province of those who hang out in coffeehouses, writing in morose, uncapitalized sentence fragments. (Seriously, are there any more chilling words to hear than "I've written a poem about our relationship. Can I read it to you?") But this art form deserves far more respect than that.
For example, rhyming poetry is often dismissed as being for children -- but did you know that rhyme and meter were originally mnemonic devices that allowed bards to keep hundreds of lines of poetry in their heads, back in the days when written communication was easily destroyed by fire, flood, or war? Or that we wouldn't have national sagas and heroic poems without the rhyme schemes that made it possible?
Poetic techniques, from haiku to sonnets, are less like cages than trellises, on which creativity can grow. Every civilization on earth has created its own particular forms of poetry, each with their own rules. Don't worry, we're not going to test you on rare forms like dyfalu or villanelle (though, if you're curious, the first is a form of nearly verbless Welsh poetry; the second is a complex French form that Dylan Thomas used to write "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"). But do you know what separates blank verse from free verse? Or an ode from an elegy?
Dust off your memories of English class and try our quiz on poetry terms. You might just find yourself inspired to read a little more of this venerable art form, whether it's John Donne or John Berryman!