Poetry can quite easily be seen as the poor relation of the arts. Collections of poetry sell in remarkably small numbers and almost nobody earns a living from writing the stuff. And yet, if the internet is to be believed, hundreds of thousands of people seem to be writing poetry, and a lot of them are also discussing this most noble of arts in blogs and other online forums. One of the things most often discussed is the fundamental question, "what is poetry anyway?"And here's how it ends.
Other definitions of poetry have tended to avoid questions of harmony and morality entirely. For instance, William Carlos Williams wrote that a "poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words". Williams points to a distinction between prose and poetry that, by analogy, lies somewhere in the self-sustaining economy of effort and complete lack of sentimentality that characterises machines. Williams's words also, I believe, sit very comfortably with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous dictum, "I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose - words in their best order; poetry - the best words in their best order."
This last is the definition that most pleases me. Now all we have to do is agree on what we mean by the "best words" and the "best order" and we're laughing.
In the spirit of poetry Friday, this is a worthy entry. Do click on over and read all the stuff in the middle.