Beryl Cook: Poetry Reading
This, I think, is my favourite definition of poetry:
"... a poem is made in language and lives in its readers' multiple interpretations. Even in the most apparently lucid poetry, light doesn't shine directly on a single meaning but is refracted by metaphor and splintered by patterns of sound or relationship to other texts - or, to shift to another metaphor, the poem is always out of the office, and even at its most compliant it's rarely wholly subordinate to the structures of meaning that would pin it down".
Zoë Skoulding (Poetry Wales, Vol 44, no 3)
I also like this which says something more about the poem's relationship with the reader:
"But a poem is reciprocal, it insists
on adult relations, to exist
it pre-exists in you or not at all.
Severed from me you hold its future, make
it open up between us. You must take
a poem like a lover.
God give you guts to see it: When it works
poetry is an orgasm. The O.K. word
It’s an excerpt from a poem written by a one-time tutor and mentor of mine, Peter Fison, who first really brought the wonders of literature alive for me.
T.S.Eliot, of course, had a lot of interesting things to say about poetry. Such as:
“…the poet is occupied with the frontiers of consciousness beyond which words fail, though meaning still exists.”
Finally, to go back a few centuries here is a triad from the Llyfr Coch Hergest, the Red Book of Hergest,
"Tri pheth a beir y gerdawr uot yn amyl: kyfarwydyt ystoryaeu, a bardoniaeth, a hengerd. "
‘Three things that give amplitude to a poet: knowledge of histories, the poetic art, and old verse.’
Although it comes from a very different society to ours, it still has relevance. The 'knowledge of histories' refers to the inherited native tradition. The triad appears in Robert Graves’ The White Goddess as:
"Three things that enrich a poet: myths, poetic power, a store of ancient verse."
Poets are still enriched by knowing history and myth, possessing poetic skill and being familiar with the poetic canon.