Origins of Poetry

quill & pen 2

The Ancient Greek timeline of poetry lasted from the 7th to 4th century BC, and are believed to be the first civilisation to commit their poems to the written word.  They went on to produce most of the classic forms of literature, drama and poetry, and their great poets handed down their observations to the next and next generations.

Hesiod the 7th century Greek poet who wrote of a farmer’s life and Theogony, a genealogy of the God’s.

Pindar a 5th – 6th century lyric poet credited with writing ode’s to their victorious athlete’s.

Sappho a 7th century poet and she wrote of passionate love songs in a lyrical form.

The Ancient Greek’s period of culture ended when they were conquered firstly by Alexander the Great between (356-323 BC) and then again by the might of Rome in (250-150 BC).

The Romans went on to develop their own style of literary and poetic works, using the Greek form as their base.  From these humble beginnings the creation of a modern style of literature so began.

During the 11th – 13th centuries, the mighty Popes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages banned creative and artistic expression.

People wanted to express themselves, and so in the mid 11th century a group of troubadour musicians in Southern France sang and wrote lyrics.  They were much influenced by the ways and lifestyle of the Arabic civilisation and Omar Khayyam and Rumi, having been inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and not of this land.  With an understanding, the musicians and poets went forth and created a refreshingly new style by the 13th century.

Early troubadours started life as singing poets, but the true masters included the likes of Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, and Marie de France, and their style of works influenced the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri.  It was not uncommon to see the delivery of news, and performance styled sketches in a lyrical manner.

This has been referred to as the Provencal Movement of the 13th century and by the mid 14th century; most troubadours had fled to Italy and Spain to join the Sicilian School of poets.

For Frederick II let it be known he required poets to write about courtly love, and so it was between 1230 and 1266 many canzone’s (An Italian lyrical form of varying lengths, intended to be set to music, mainly based on romantic themes) were written.

A group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II, were able to turn verses of love into a spiritual heartbeat, a style that would show its face during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean times.

With the 12th century, Sicily integrated the languages and cultural influences of Arabic, Greek and Latin, creating the perfect form for their lyrical poetry.

It all started with Cielo of Alcamo, a court poet, who created a form of lyrical poetry.  From these early beginnings, the court poets used lyrical poetry and the canzone style which became the standard verse of the day.  Yet like all new styles, someone was waiting in the wings to change it, and in this case it was Giacomo de Lentini, who re-invented it into a sonnet.

Giacomo de Lentini, proved himself to be more than that of a poet, for it was he who went on to create a new language: Italian.

With the help of Sicilian poets, they abolished repetitive and what has become known as interchangeable lines.  They also believed poetry was for reading, not as an accompaniment to music and created a 14 – line sonnet structure, which is still used by many poets to this day.

The works and styles of Sicilian poets came to the attention of Dante as the 14th century loomed, who spread them through Florence, and the literary heartlands.

As the Renaissance period burst into existence, shining its light upon a new era in time.  Scholars from many European countries keenly watched with interest, as a cultural awakening was taking place across Europe.

As the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic export was that of ballad and sonnet, which found their way to England with the assistance of Thomas Wyatt.

Christopher Marlowe-1585

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was responsible for the creation of the unrhymed verse, as used by him for his plays.  He died early, and so William Shakespeare fashioned the style of the blank verse in a form which would meet the requirements of his plays.

Sonnets swept through England during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th century, through the writings of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney and William Shakespeare, each adding their own individual touches.

Poets of the Elizabethan era had more freedom in their writings, and so the human side became the new genre in writing.  One could say that the Elizabethan times, showed a slight resemblance to the early works of Ancient Greek.

John Milton

John Milton

The Greatest Renaissance poet would have to be John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667.  An interesting fact though, by 1652 he was blind and worked as a Latin Secretary to one Oliver Cromwell, assisted by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678) a Metaphysical Poet.

Nearly a century later, a new breed arose, the Metaphysical Poets who wrote of nature, philosophy and love, starting with John Dryden.  They were known as men of learning, and they wanted to show off their abilities to one and all.

Metaphysical Poetry concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between it, and that of romantic poetry.  Poets were known to look beyond the obvious, a style which would influence the American Transcendentalism, like those of Samuel Cowley, Andrew Marvell and Katherine Philips.

England’s time had arrived with the dawning of the Romantic Poets era, a period which lasted between (1790-1824), yet went on to produce many works written by the masters which we still read to this day.

These poets included the likes of:

William Blake

William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) An English painter and poet, who enhanced his work with illustrations as can be seen in his works “Songs of Innocence.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) An English poet, whose heart showed much support for the French Revolution, which shows through his works, and a love for the English countryside.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) A romantic poet, who supported Italian Independence and the Greek revolt against Turkey.  Often remembered for his sexual scandals, which saw the English society turn their backs on him.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Writer of romantic poems, and remembered for; “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) Writer who got himself expelled from Oxford University for co-writing “The Necessity of Atheism.”  Yet he went on to write “Ode to a skylark,” and other poems which reflected his idealism and radical thoughts on politics.

John Keats (1795-1821) Another of the English poets who wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

They wrote together, travelled together and lived together.

They made nature a more important part of their works, with more expression and passion, as to challenge the minds and imaginations of their readers … in so doing they planted a seed, which would flourish into a relationship.

Another poet who would be remembered for his works would be Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) for “The Lotus Eaters.”

A new era replaced the Romantic Movement in 1836; the American Transcendentalists, for they believed in expression of their thoughts through the written word.

They changed people’s ideas on poetry, and studied utopian values, spiritual exploration, and into the artistic side.  Their ideals brought authors, poets and social leaders to their door, and so they grew.

The 19th century saw the American; Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), put forward natural speech and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) create the free-verse style of poetry.

French poet; Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) put forward the idea that poetry should contain an air of vagueness and music within poems.

The first Surrealist Movement manifesto was drawn up by Andre Breton the French poet in 1924, asking poets to explore the world of dreams, sub consciousness and hallucinations in their works.

American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) promoted the works of W.B.Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S.Elliot (1888-1965).

In 1948, with the Second World War over, we saw the emergence of what became known as the Beat Movement.  The style was based on characters and interests, who desired to live life, as they wished to.

It was the beginning of the narrative free verse written by Allen Ginsberg, it was all about free expression.  In 1956 he published a collection of works entitled “Howl.”  So it was that these beat poets as they had been referred to, created a new appreciation in the love of poetry.

As the interest grew, more beat poets surfaced, like; Joanne Kyger, Herbert Huncke, LeRoi Jones, to move the art of poetry further forward.

The history of poetry has had a long and mixed relationship with the reader as the styles have changed.  For in the early days, the definition of poetic writings focused on nature, love, drama and song and later concentrated on repetition and rhyme and how it would read and sound.

Poetry has been used to expand the literal meaning of words, to evoke an emotional feeling or a sensual response…

Poetry has often been referred to, as a way a poet, can create poems as a need to escape the logical side of life.

Wikipedia Images


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.

My Thoughts on Creativity

0000-poetry-guidesThe art of poetry as we have come to know it, is a form of expression, that has its history firmly rooted in the past.  For it is known to predate literacy and used to record history.

A poem is made up of a collection of words with stressed and unstressed syllables, some words offer meanings and creativeness, whilst others appear bland and cold.

We as poets try to pass over to the reader of our work, a meaning of what we are trying to say in the written word.  For each and every word, every line within the verse has its place.  For a poem arises from our soul; often calling upon memories from our past, with an insight which resonates with his or her audience.

We use our mind to create a poem with perspective, structure and a good choice of words as conveyed on each line.  We bring into play social, cultural attitudes and sometimes the news of the day.  Bring a depth of thought to follow through the words, gives a comparison, contrast and conclusions to the works.

The heart, there is nothing like it, for we use it to express emotions; from times of anger, happiness, sadness, fear and excitement.  One most important part of any poem is good observation finely tuned to life experiences.

The one thing we should always remember, when writing any poem; the first line should be designed to grab the attention of the reader, for it is a question, waiting to be answered.

Poetry Guide: The Limerick


The Limerick has become associated with Ireland; a catchy yet light verse, which consists of five lines a – a – b – b – a rhyming scheme.  It has been enjoyed these past two centuries or more, and lives within jokes, puns and quick yet short poetry verse.  It can be heard in the pub, on university campus and in nursery rhymes, and so the jovial Limerick lives on …

The Limerick form arrived on the scene, in France during the Middle Ages, crossed the English Channel and seen as a 11th century manuscript.

The lion is wondrous strong

And full of the wiles of wo;

And whether he pleye

Or take his preye

He cannot do but slo (slay)

Similar in form to that of an Irish Limmerick but the rhyme scheme of a – b – c – c – b has been used.

William Shakespeare used the Limerick style in “The Tempest, Othello and King Lear.”  Then in 1776, it appeared in publications of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and since then has been part of children’s literature.

Edward Lear popularised the Limerick in his Book of Nonsense.  Punch magazine was created for the publication of Limerick’s.  This style of writing caught the attention of ; Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson, who are known to have experimented with it, and published some works.

There was an old man with a beard

Who said, it’s just how I feared!

Two owls and a hen

Four larks and a wren

Have all built their nests in my beard

(Anonymous Poet)


Limericks are fun to create: humorous, bawdy, full of folk wisdom and ever so entertaining.

The first line of any Limerick needs to start with the subject, but make sure you don’t give the intended story away.

As one crafts the first line, it should work as follows:

An unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, followed by two unstressed syllables, followed by one stressed syllable, followed by two unstressed syllables and one stressed syllable.

It can be very confusing in the beginning, but great fun and a thesaurus at hand makes light work of it.

The second line defines the subject or consequences of past action.  Relationship between first and second line, using a rhyming form is essential.

The next two lines detail the action taken, and the final line is the punch line, a surprise twist for the ending.

When one thinks of a Limerick, it is a type of poem which can be used by advertising companies to promote products, aimed at attracting buyer’s interests…

Poetry Guide: An Ode


The Ode is a poetic styled poem with expression at the heart of it, and the creation of the Greek poet Sappho, and later re-defined by Pindar and Horace.  It was lengthy and lyrical, in its early days and used in accompaniment with choral music, for Greek dramas.  It came in three parts, or three acts; “The Strophe” told one side of the story, “The Antistrophe” conveyed its counterpart, whilst “The Epode” recounted the adventure.”

It wasn’t long before the ode, was seen as an ideal way for poets to get their poems across to the people.  Two stand out; Pindar the Greek lyric poet, whose ode’s are responsible for the foundation of English Ode’s and their writing style.  Sappo another Greek poet who gave ode’s that femine touch in his works.

The single – voice style was favoured by the Romans.  What started out as music accompaniments eventually changed to the spoken word of poetry.

In the Renaissance period, the Ode’s developed by the Greek poets, changed to spoken word only, much like the style used by the Romans.

Sir Edmund Spenser wrote in the Horation Ode style during the 16th century, writing “Epithamalion” and “Prothamalion” for the English poetry scene.

Elizabethan poets and dramatists created elaborate styled lyrical poetry for the popular culture, and so England experienced an ode revival into the 17th and 18th centuries.

Abraham Cowley created his own style of Ode, which used stanzas (a group of lines forming a regular metrical division within a poem) of varying lengths which greatly influenced the 18th century revival by John Dryden, Alexander Pope and William Collins.

As with other poetic forms the Romantic poet John Keats wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” after that the ode seemed to fade from favour until its rebirth in the early part of the 20th century.

There are many lyrical forms when it comes to poetry, and the Ode, especially the Greek Ode, will always be remembered, for it is quite simply one of the most expressive styles in its long history.

One of the beauty’s of writing an ode, is that the poet, is not constrained by a pre-set stanza length, metrical or rhyming scheme.

An Ode is a celebration based on a person, event or relationship: Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,—

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country green,

Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South,

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stained mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim:


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs,

Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:

Already with thee! tender is the night,

And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,

Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;

But here there is no light,

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.


I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet

Wherewith the seasonable month endows

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;

White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;

Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;

And mid-May’s eldest child,

The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,

The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;

Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

In such an ecstasy!

Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—

To thy high requiem become a sod.


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The same that oft-times hath

Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?