Guide to Literary Terms Poetry

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Poetry - a literary work in metrical form or patterned language. The term is also used to describe the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, which is designed to produce pleasure through beautiful, elevated, imaginative, or profound thoughts.

The etymology of “poetry” is the same as that of “poetic” discussed under “poetic justice.”

Aristotle divided poetry into three genres which have each spawned other genres:

1. epic, which included narratives of heroic action and events of more than personal significance

2. lyric, which was originally meant to be sung

3. satire, which was the moral censure of evil, pretension, or anti-social behavior

Shakespeare discusses poetry in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Theseus speaks of love:

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Act V, scene i : lines 7 – 17

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