In a concert I heard saying Poetry is : "words carrying the meaning little concealed and little exposed."

It may sound convincing but thats not word to word meaning neither complete. It is just a beautiful meaning that is pleasant to hear.

Meaning of poetry?

  • 3
    I'm afraid this is both Too Broad to be answered here and off-topic Literary Criticism - in fact, it is the fundamental question and primary concern of LitCrit. Jun 16, 2014 at 17:51
  • But I think we can address your second question: a poem is a literary work which may be classified or read as poetry. Jun 16, 2014 at 17:53

4 Answers 4


As everyone here has said, this is a very broad question that would better be addressed in a literary criticism forum. There are actually three words derived from poesis that need addressing:

  • Poem
  • Poetry
  • Poetics

We can start with "poem," as that's the easiest word to define [this is sarcasm, by the way]. A poem is a kind of literary work. Poems are usually distinguished from prose works by being written in meter or in some other kind of versification (by versification I mean here simply "lines" - for instance, in "free verse," rather than meter, lines are determined by some other attribute of the language - often line endings are determined by natural pauses). It is usual for the tone and register of a poem to be elevated in some way from the natural rhythms and language of prose. In many languages, there are also "prose poems," which are literary works which mimic the structure (and possibly tone) of poems but are written without any versification.

The term "poetry" is used both for the genre to which individual poems belong and for the vehicle of poetic expression (tone, register, meter, etc.).

The term "poetics" is used both for the methods used to write poetry and for the study of those methods.


Since only the headline asks any clear questions, my response is to that.

The definition of poetry is much contested, so beyond consulting dictionaries (have you?), a course on literary criticism or theory might be your best bet for wrapping your head around the age-old controversies. The sophist Gorgias of Leontini defined it simply as discourse with meter (rhyme being no standard feature of poetry in classical languages), but Sir Philip Sidney among many others insisted that that criterion was not sufficient, and in this age of “free verse” or “the poem in open form” it is held not to be necessary either.

The difference between poem and poetry is basically just a matter of countable vs. mass noun.


Of course many volumes have been written on the meaning of poetry. Perhaps the most succint answer that may be relevant to your question is the definition of poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: the best words in the best order.

The full quote is: "Prose is words in the best order - poetry is the best words in the best order."

Table Talk, July 12, 1827

Poetry is a genre of writing that consists of poems.


In poetry the goal is artistic conveyance; the words may be used for the meaning they have, how they look on a page, pronunciation, or reaction. It's the abstract art of the linguistic world, and therefore doesn't need to be coherent to make sense. Keep in mind it's not the only art of course. A poem is a piece of creative writing that is entirely poetic with a definable beginning and end. Poems are often used within larger works to add feeling.

My answer = Not poetic

I'm Nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson = A poem

The Grey (2013) = Uses poetic language to add feeling, and non-poetic elements to provide the story. A movie that contains poems.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.