Archive for the ‘Aesthetics’ Category
Poetry is a subset of literature, the art form of language, but it also legitimately belongs to another art: music.
Poetry is rhyme and rhythm, cadence and count, meter and metric. Poetry is prosody. It is scansion. It is versification. Those are the elements of poetry that make it a part of the musical.
But poetry is primarily a branch of literature, and the two main elements of poetry are style and theme. (Note: There is such a thing as narrative poetry, which is poetry that tells a story, but those two elements — storytelling and verse — combine poorly.)
It’s important to point out that the word “poetry” is not synonymous with the word “poem.”
Poetry is general; poems are specific.
All poems are in theory poetic, but not all poetry is a poem.
Novels, essays, memoirs, chronicles, short stories, and virtually every other form of prose can be poetic. For example, “The multitudinous seas incarnadine” is poetic, but it’s not a poem.
A poem, by definition, is a self-contained piece, of varying length, with a certain meter, rhythm, and style, all of which combine to convey a theme. A poem can rhyme or not.
The definition of poetry, on the other hand, has confounded writers and philosophers for centuries. Leo Tolstoy captured this well when he wrote:
Where the boundary between prose and poetry lies I shall never be able to understand. The question is raised in manuals of style, yet the answer to it lies beyond me. Poetry is verse: prose is not verse. Or else poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books.
But even “business documents and school books” could — at least, in theory — be poetic.
So what is poetry?
Poetry is style: stylized language.
Poetry is concentrated speech. It is density of expression.
Poetry is language at its best.
Poetry is writer’s writing.
Poetry is not, contrary to popular belief, pretentious or flowery language — or, at any rate, good poetry is not.
Poetry is technique. Poetry is skill. Poetry is metaphor.
Poetry is the beauty of language.
A reader writes:
Dear Sir: What is beauty? Is it anything?
– Lily Alderman
Dear Lily: It is everything. Beauty is the esthetically pleasing, it is the lovely. Aristotle wrote: “Beauty depends on size as well as symmetry” (ahem, ahem). But beauty is symmetry. Beauty is congruence. It is the bah-bah in black sheep. Beauty is not, finally, inexplicable or ineffable, but it is elusive.
Darwin noted that a streak of stew in a man’s beard is not beautiful, but he pointed out also — and sagely so — that neither the soup nor the beard is inherently non-beautiful.
Beauty requires, among other things, that sensory data bring with it a very specific kind of emotional pleasure — one which awakens “the contemplative in man,” as Kant said — such as you might feel, for instance, when you see the Northern Lights, or hear a profound song. Beauty even encompasses melancholy.
Beauty is the symbol of symbols. Beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. When it shows us itself, it shows us the whole fiery-colored world. No object is so ugly that, under certain conditions, it will not look beautiful; no object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.
Said Oscar Wilde.
Beauty, properly defined, is part of the science of axiology, which is the study of values. Axiology, in turn, is a sub-division of aesthetics. The science of beauty is called aesthetics.
But that’s all purely academic.
Here, Lily, is the only thing you really need to know about beauty:
Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds:
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.