We are surrounded by poetry every day. Hard to believe, huh? Often people will say that they hate poetry and then crank up the radio and belt out the lyrics to their favorite song along with Beyonce, Eminem, or Nickelback. What these people don’t realize is that the lyrics from their favorite songs are just a form of poetry. In order for words to be put to music (or at least put to music well), there needs to be rhythm and an aesthetic quality. That’s poetry.
A really challenging form of poetry is the type used in rap lyrics. This requires an intense amount of rhythm, meaning, and rapid-firing. There is usually not only rhyming at the end of lines, but internal rhyming as well. Take for example the lines:
You outta your head
I can’t stand it
I even seein’ red.
Not only do the words “head” and “red: rhyme, there is also an internal rhyme of “can’t stand” which is what is called a soft rhyme. They don’t exactly rhyme, but there is a sound similarity that makes the words sound good. Same thing goes for "even seein'".
In fact, many people believe that for writing to be poetry, the end of each line or every other line needs to rhyme. That’s not true. In fact, some poetry doesn’t rhyme at all. Often, the “roses are red” approach can make a poem sound hokey.
Some poets focus more on the rhythm than the rhyme. Rhythm at its most basic is counting the syllables and making a pattern with the count of the words. If you add music, rhythm is the beat of the drum driving the song. All poetry has rhythm. And if it is read or sung right, it can draw us in. Like a beating heart.
So you may now be wondering, if poetry isn’t about rhyming, what is it, exactly? Good question. In fact it’s a question that people have been debating for years. Kinda like the question, “what’s art?”. The word poetry comes from a Greek word, poiesis which means “creating” and many people believe that poetry is like writing down the creative force of the universe. And this, to me, means passion.
After all, if you write poetry, why do you do it? Usually people will write poetry about powerful emotions like falling in love, desiring someone, or a horrible break-up. They might write about sadness or anger. Many poets say that writing poetry is like a release.
And if you listen to or read poetry, what attracts you to it? Many people want that sense of something intangible, or a rush of emotion. Poems are pulsing and racing and, if they are set to music, can get stuck in your head. The combination of powerful emotions, rhyme and rhythm speaks to something deep inside us.
So poetry is all around us. But, shhh…don’t tell that to those people who say they hate it. Just let them be.