Essay about Poetry: Topics, Outline, Tips

by  Eric Beaugh
essay-on-poetry

 If you think about it for a moment - it is incredibly easy to write an essay about poetry. After all - there is no conclusive, definite definition of what poetry is. It is everything and nothing in particular. It is, as Tzvetan Todorov wrote "a matter of time, place and text". It can take any form or shape and still be powerful document of human experience. It shows the capabilities of human mind free of chains of establishment and chores of everyday life. Mind that is twisting and shouting restless and wild. Mind that moves in leaps and bounds towards infinity and beyond.

But on the other hand - it takes an effort to "get" poetry. You can't just digest it as a candy bar. There are a lot of barriers for poetry to pass through in order to be appreciated fully, not even to mention writing an essay on poetry. Too much to think about. Thus it can be easily misunderstood. Maybe even too easily. That misfortune usually leads to severe misinterpreting and then to whole chain of events, in a domino-like manner, causes thorough and utter discarding of a piece as heinous rubbish sprinkled with extreme disgust. Sometimes it is funny, other times it is sad. But it is fair to say that poetry usually suffers badly from being misunderstood and misinterpreted. It always deserves better than to be discarded as something abundantly pretentious and curiously useless in relation to primary consuming needs of a human being of XXI century. But why it happens that way?

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To answer that question - we need to go ab ovo.

What is poetry?

That question is a popular favorite amongst posh, pretentious schmucks who like to put some schmaltz over the substantial matters because you know - matter is something that matters. Well, you know, secretes pus. Everybody loves to think and talk about "what is poetry?". Hell, better part of American poetry is about other poetry and makes even less sense if you read it and about it. You just can't get away from it and its formaldehyde odor. It became a thing of its own. A substitute of another thing. Looks pretty tall, but it is the heels that are high.  

Every time you get around it - the only thing you really get is a simulacrum instead of a real thing. Vague expressions of the vogue without grace or even proper lightning - down in a hole, rattling like a rooster over sleeping kangaroo. And this extreme waste of time led to one very interesting unintended consequence.

Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili once wrote that there is no need in looking for philosophy in philosophic texts. Because there is no philosophy in the philosophic texts. It is always eluding; it is always elsewhere. Anywhere, basically, but not in the things that call itself so. And since there is nothing on the banner - nevermind the bollocks.

How to write an essay on poetry?

Poetry is a tough subject to write about. Mainly because you can spin it anyway you want. The only real thing you need is a proper argument base. With it you can dance the poems original meaning away so far you'll start to wonder what lies beneath the layer formerly occupied by meaning. This doesn't mean you have to go to such extremes, but as an exercise - overanalyzing is quite fun.

In the foundation of every essay about poetry lies combination of literary theory, historical and aesthetic backgrounds . It must go one by one. First, you need to show origins of the piece - in what environment it evolved. Then dissect the techniques applied in it and interpret imagery within the text. After that you can muse about the ways it correlates with current cultural status or lack of thereof of any given text.

With this things you can the reader clear understanding of your interpretation of the piece.

While writing an essay about poetry - you need to remember that talking about poetry is inessential to the poetry itself. It brings nothing on the table and it is only a blunt subterfuge to avoid taking poetry as it is - on its own terms. Why? Because poetry can be overwhelming. Especially if you let it be so. It is tragicomic to put it politely. As Adam West once said "sometimes you just can't get rid of a bomb". It seems that the majority thought that the best way was to embrace the bomb. Even if the bomb was in reality a watermelon and now, after a while it just stinks.

To say it in other words - there is no such thing as poetry in strict, concrete terms. It is always something else. "Something else" is probably the most adequate description of poetry. But there are numerous other descriptions. One of my favorite belongs to Ezra Pound and it goes like this "Poetry is the news that stays the news". Too playful.

But what if you need to write an essay on poetry analysis. Here's what Encyclopedia Britannica says: "Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning". Much better.

It is easy to explain the poem, to tell the story behind its creation, to dive deep into the craft of the text. But it always missing something. Something dies when a poem is dissected - maybe it is the spirit leaves the body of the text. Keep that in mind.

That leads us to the question from the beginning...

Why poetry is so easily misunderstood?

Part of the reason poetry is so much maligned and ridiculed lies in the perpetrators themselves. The majority of people does not care about poetry or other forms of literature. They only care for things that can make them feel good either in long term or short term perspective.

Since poetry makes nothing happen in a rather fascinating way - it is rather irritating to those who only think and cares about "serious things". To counter them - you just need to let them bob their uncles and twist the lemons a bit. Plain and simple.


To round things up, I would like to quote Marianne Moore. In her poem aptly titled "Poetry" she wrote: "I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in it after all, a place for the genuine."

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What is hidden behind poetry?

Funnily enough - with the things that you can find in the text it boils down to simple operating procedure. Do you remember that Nike ad? "Just do it!" That is the simplest description for the process of writing poetry. Even though it is not quite accurate. In reality it is far more prosaic (pardon me for that figure). While writing an essay about poetry - you need to remember about that. It was done because of it. That's a crucial factor.  Let me break it down step by step:

  1. - writer gets the inciting image;
  2. - it becomes irritating
  3. - he builds the premise around it;
  4. - tries to find the most effective way of expressing the ideas;
  5. - surrounds with an elaborate verbal construction;
  6. - then throws it away;

What happens then is up to debate, usually it is one of these:

  1. - starts all over again;
  2. - procrastinates, possibly by writing another poem;
  3. - writes the poem down on a whim as if its a fridge note;
  4. - add some verbal icing and grammar chick;
  5. - leaves it be for a while;
  6. - then, if it doesn't annoy him - consider submitting somewhere.


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