I’ve been told that rhyme is dead. The mark of a beginner. No good poet uses it.
I’ve been told that rhyme is beautiful, but only when the natural pause in reading falls anywhere BUT the end of the line, because that’s the mark of poor style, used by teenagers and children’s lit wannabes.
I’ve been told that free verse is sloppy, an essay with pretty words hacked into prettily-shaped lines, but not a poem.
I’ve been told that love and death and melancholy are overdone, and there is nothing new to say about them.
I’ve been told that traditional forms, like the sonnet, are no longer relevant for the poet of today, because traditional forms are strict and musty, good only for writing class exercises.
In a world where everyone thinks they’re a writer, everyone and their dog, cat, and fish think they are a poet. And most of them are quick to tell you the “rights and wrongs” of poetry.
The only rights and wrongs of poetry lie in traditional verse; if you are going to write in a set form, you must follow that form. This is the same reason you won’t find aliens in historical romance or hobbits in Fitzgerald. It’s fun to explore outside of the box, but when the box is expected, stay inside.
I was once told not to make up words in children’s poetry. Told by a professional children’s author/poet even. An earlier version of the same poem they were critiquing had actually won first place in a children’s poetry competition. Some of the comments after the competition stated the judges loved it because I wasn’t afraid to make up my own words as they fit the characters and style of the piece.
Was there room for improvement? Most certainly. Did I need to change the core of the piece to achieve it? Not necessarily.
Poetry is opinion.
The greats are the greats for their mastery of language, imagery, and emotional impact. They wrote something to which thousands, if not millions of people could connect. And they wrote in traditional forms, free verse, end rhymes, pretty essays, and occasionally made-up words.
So what is poetry? Poetry is truth in the most eloquent, heartfelt, impactful way we can say it. Poetry is the image that grabs you, demonstrating a thought you never knew how else to express.
Not everything is poetry, but anything can be.
So now let me ask… what is poetry to YOU?