Portal:Poetry
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Portal:Poetry

Welcome to the Poetry Portal

The first lines of the Iliad
Great Seal Script character for poetry, ancient China

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language--such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre--to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Poetry has a long history, dating back to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Early poems evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively informative, prosaic forms of writing. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally regarded as a fundamental creative act employing language.

Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly figures of speech such as metaphor, simile and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images--a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.

Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter; there are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, playing with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today's increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.

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The raven poe 1845.jpg
"The Raven" is a narrative poem by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. First published in January 1845, the poem is often noted for its musicality, stylized language, and supernatural atmosphere. It tells of a talking raven's mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man's slow fall into madness. The lover, often identified as being a student, is lamenting the loss of his love, Lenore. Sitting on a bust of Pallas, the raven seems to further instigate his distress with its constant repetition of the word "Nevermore". The poem makes use of a number of folk and classical references.

Poe claimed to have written the poem very logically and methodically, intending to create a poem that would appeal to both critical and popular tastes, as he explained in his 1846 follow-up essay "The Philosophy of Composition". The poem was inspired in part by a talking raven in the novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty by Charles Dickens. Poe borrows the complex rhythm and meter of Elizabeth Barrett's poem "Lady Geraldine's Courtship", and makes use of internal rhyme as well as alliteration throughout.

"The Raven" was first attributed to Poe in print in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845. Its publication made Poe widely popular in his lifetime, although it did not bring him much financial success. Soon reprinted, parodied, and illustrated, critical opinion is divided as to the poem's status, but it nevertheless remains one of the most famous poems ever written. (Full article...)

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Jami Rose Garden.jpg
Illustration from Jami's Rose Garden of the Pious, 1553. A Persian miniature painting with verses.
image credit: Zereshk

Selected biography

Mario de andrade 1928b.png

Mário Raul de Morais Andrade (October 9, 1893 - February 25, 1945) was a Brazilian poet, novelist, musicologist, art historian and critic, and photographer. One of the founders of Brazilian modernism, he virtually created modern Brazilian poetry with the publication of his Paulicéia Desvairada (Hallucinated City) in 1922. He has had an enormous influence on modern Brazilian literature, and as a scholar and essayist--he was a pioneer of the field of ethnomusicology--his influence has reached far beyond Brazil.

Andrade was the central figure in the avant-garde movement of São Paulo for twenty years. Trained as a musician and best known as a poet and novelist, Andrade was personally involved in virtually every discipline that was connected with São Paulo modernism, and became Brazil's national polymath. His photography and essays on a wide variety of subjects, from history to literature and music, were widely published. He was the driving force behind the Week of Modern Art, the 1922 event that reshaped both literature and the visual arts in Brazil, and a member of the avant-garde "Group of Five." The ideas behind the Week were further explored in the preface to his poetry collection Pauliceia Desvairada, and in the poems themselves.

After working as a music professor and newspaper columnist he published his great novel, Macunaíma, in 1928. Work on Brazilian folk music, poetry, and other concerns followed unevenly, often interrupted by Andrade's shifting relationship with the Brazilian government. At the end of his life, he became the founding director of São Paulo's Department of Culture, formalizing a role he had long held as the catalyst of the city's--and the nation's--entry into artistic modernity. (Full article...)

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