At this time of disquiet and unprecedented threats to democracy, radical right-wing insurgency, and National discord, it might be a respite to consider man’s eternally tranquil but often bypassed, treasure trove of poetry. An eternally available oasis of meditative pleasure, poetry has been readily accessible to every citizen, irrespective of diverse stripe, and solely demanding the requirement of literacy. We can guarantee the singular virtues and rare pleasure derived from the reading of authentic poetry [as opposed to its faux presentations.] We will list the defining and fundamental criteria of authentic poetry, which we derived, and personally adhere to, from our studies of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, colored by the structural influence of the more contemporary, Walt Whitman.
Poetry in its simplest terms is often defined as a literary work in which special interest is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of structure, style and rhythm. Another proffered description describes it as a concentrated, imaginative description of experience or emotional response, employing sensitively employed language, arranged for meaning, sound and style. We would prefer to describe it more descriptively and functionally, as the distillation or refinement of the poet’s experience or emotional reaction to the ambient content of reality [like the derivation of the essential mineral from its ambient ore]. It is a private, microscopic experience in concentration as effectively and functionally revelatory as, a held lantern in a darkened room.
As devotees and, veritable poetic evangelists, of Coleridge, we would instructively restate his basic premise or essential criteria, regarding poetry, which we consider no less than, definitional. Coleridge prescribed as the salient [and mandatory] features of poetry “word imagery and “economy of speech.” Most often, but not exclusively, these criteria are successfully accomplished by the artistic choice of metaphor, communicating the fundamental essence of the described subject by a familiar abstraction. We would offer the following example in illustration: In lieu of the expression of several lines of emotionally worded description of a beautiful young granddaughter, one might, economically and descriptively,[ i.e., poetically] refer to her as a “red rosebud on a pile of newly fallen snow.”
Structurally, in aid of procuring the intended response, important considerations, in addition to the thematic and sensitive choice of strategically evocative words, are the important considerations of length of line and impactful meter [rhythm] in the conveying of the intended sentiment, [ viz., Henry Longfellow’s, “Song of Hiawatha,” Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”]
Regrettably, we have been dismayed at the publication of far too many examples of faux poetry, in today’s print, shockingly, at times, in publications that deservedly enjoy reputations as well-written and erudite. Nevertheless, such offerings, wherever they may appear, in our respectful determination, fall below the most generous standards applicable to legitimate poetics. The use of irregular or bizarre lines of print, or the misleading employment of archaic or obtuse vocabulary, or like, exotic and misleading, alternatives to the legitimate skills of poetry, are inadequate and merely sham. Such writings despite their unexplained appearance, on the pages of estimable publications, thereby purporting to be “gold” [poetry], qualify merely as “fool’s gold” [faux poetry, doggerel].
It is our view that the intimate experience of rare aesthetic beauty, metaphysical understanding, and, as well, the salutary diversion from the rancorous ambiance of the day, is attainable, only by indulging in authentic verse. The latter, functions effectively, in switching our dormant, sensory perceptions to “On,” and then relevantly focuses the mind’s broad searchlight on matters, aesthetically and intimately expressed, regarding fundamental and metaphysical truth, only expressible through true poetics.