Development of Poetry

Medieval man writing

We can’t conclusively say when poems first started being recited, but we can state poetry is known to pre-date the written word.

Ancient cultural myths, tales and legends were passed down through history, in a form of poetic expression, which in turn would be told to the next generation.

Poetry came of age, with the introduction of reading and writing.  As poetry evolved, so did the poetic structures, into three main genres: Epic, Lyric and Dramatic poetry.

We associate poetry as the spoken word.  However, minstrels were known to take poems, add music and sing out the words, in performances throughout Europe.

It is said that the Sanskrit epic by Ramayana, written in the 3rd Century BC may have been in Latin, and contained an early form of poetry.  Columbus in 1492 used an alphabet song for letters in the alphabet, and a jingle for names in the month.

The 19th and 20th century saw a change in poetry; a new style was created by a new breed of poets.

John Keats:  English Romantic poet with a connection to physical rather than an intellectual style within his work.

William Wordsworth: English poet showed support for the French Revolution.

Thomas Hardy: English poet with deep empathy for the natural world.

William Yeats: Irish poet whose early works were based on Irish Myths and Fairy Tales, but his works became more personal in later life.

Writings of the 1930’s revolved around violence and political scandal, with links to the war.  By the end of the 1940’s, the Second World War was over, and we saw an emerging group of romantic poets, writing about the area in which they lived.  With the 1950’s came the emergence of those writing about anti-modernism and controversial in their approach, but the romantic influence had gone.

Poetry of the 1960’s was heavily influenced by the music era, for it was common place, that they were known to dive into the drug world for inspiration, to feed themselves, thus creating a new form of poetry.

Poetry of the 20th century changed so much with each generation; it evolved through influences and events of the time.  Much music written at the time was similar to early forms of poetry when words were put to music by minstrels.  The following words from the song “The Streets of London by Ralph McTell” could just as easily be read as a poem.

An Extract of Song:

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
With his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.

How would one describe poetry?  It is an artistic form, by which one uses it to express emotion, thoughts and ideas in a compressed form.  Whether it be a flourish of descriptive words or clean-cut.

Interactive layering consists of imagery, word associations and musical adaptations, to create poetry.

Poetry is a creation by the writer from the need to escape the logical form, as well as express feelings in a tight compressed manner.

Narrative and dramatic styles of poetry are used to tell stories, and feature verse composition, which are known to resemble novels and plays.

They set themselves apart from other works weaving together intricate elements of tension, complex emotion and thought, creating a refreshing style of poetry.

English and European poetry often uses rhyme; a system used for hundreds of years, such as ballads, sonnets etc.  However, much modern poetry has strayed from rhyme.  Another style is free verse poetry (Unrhymed and following no strict pattern) offering pleasing and emphasising element to a poem.

Poetry can go on to produce works in an organised fashion.  A single line can make sense.  “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” (From Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

In more recent times, electronic media has enhanced poems, and can be accessed in Weblogs as a way of expressing one’s thoughts.

There are many other forms of poetry that I have not mentioned, the list has grown much over the centuries but here are a few seen often but deserve a mention:

Elegy:         A serious reflective poem, especially one lamenting a death.

Haiku:         Epigrammatic Japanese verse form employing seventeen syllables.

Stanza:       A group of lines forming a regular metrical division within a poem.

Tercet:       A group of three lines, often connected by rhyme.

Sonnet:      Consists of fourteen lines with first and third, second and fourth lines of  each verse rhyming.


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