Poetry, you know about it. You've probably read quite a bit of it. Here is a quick run-down of the basics of poetry.

  • Poetry can convey and express anything: the self, one’s political reality, universal themes of humankind, or a combination of these (as is usual).
  • Poetry is a form of creative writing in verse. That is, poetry is composed in a certain rhythm. This is why sound is an essential part of poetry.
  • Rhyme and rhyme scheme, however, are not essential to poetry: both rhymed and unrhymed verses exist. John Milton's Paradise Lost, considered one of the greatest pieces of poetry in the Western world, is unrhymed!
John Milton, poet, poetry, epic poetry, epic poem, Paradise Lost, Biblical, Fall of Man, British poet, 17th century, unrhymed poetry, blank verse, iambic pentameter, unrhymed iambic pentameter
John Milton wrote the well-known epic poem "Paradise Lost". It is an unrhymed poem.
  • Another aspect of poetry is meter. Meter involves proper combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables. Again, poetry can be metrical or non-metrical (popularly called “free verse”). While  Shakespeare's sonnets are famous examples of the former, much of the popular poetry on Instagram today embodies the power of the latter.
  • The length of the poem does not matter either: poetry can be as long as a book or could only take up a single page.
  • In recent times, poetry has been reclaimed and recast as a genre of the people. It has been made to shed its elitist connotations and has been democratized. Think of the Beat poets of the US or the popular performance/slam poetry of today.
  • Poetry has a large number of sub-divisions and types, such as odes, sonnets, limericks (a variety of short humorous poetry), haikus, ghazals, and many more. Find your strength in any of these types, or create your own!
  • So, even though poetry has a basic requirement of rhythm, there is quite a bit of space for experimentation. If you are someone who is naturally inclined to rhythm, verse, and powerful imagery, poetry might be the style of writing meant for you!

For Inspiration

  1. You can check out one of Aranya Johar’s performance poetry pieces here:
A well-known and powerful poetry performance by Aranya Johar: "A Brown Girl's Guide to Gender"

Here’s a little something extra for you.  If you’re interested in learning more about performance poetry, you can follow her exclusive poetry-writing and performance-based course on FrontRow!

2. One of the most famous modernist poets, T.S. Eliot, wrote in a way that changed the landscape of poetry in the 20th century. Read any poem of his (personal recommendation is "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”).

T.S. Eliot, poet, poetry, Modernism, Literary Modernism, Modernist poetry, 20th century, American poet, Prufrock, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land
T.S. Eliot, one of the greatest Modernist poets

3. Akhil Katyal is a critically acclaimed poet writing in current times. His poetry speaks to the times. Read some of his poetry on his Instagram page.

Akhil Katyal, poet, Indian poet, poetry, Delhi Poetry Festival, contemporary poet, Instagram
Akhil Katyal (center) at the Delhi Poetry Festival 

4. Kamala Das’ poetry embodies free verse and confessional poetry. Read her “An Introduction” here.

Kamala Das, Kamala Suraiyya, poet, Indian poet, Indian writing in English, confessional poetry, free verse, An Introduction, An Introduction by Kamala Das
Kamala Das, one of the greatest Indian poets of all time

5. Amrita Pritam’s poetry, written during the Partition of India, shows how poetry becomes a part of people’s cultural reality by speaking the truth of its times. Read her famous poem “Today I Call Unto Waris Shah”.

Amrita Pritam, poet, Indian poet, novelist, poetry, novels, Partition, Partition of India, 1947, Waris Shah, Today I Call Unto Waris Shah, Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu, Pinjar
Amrita Pritam, one of the poets and novelists who bore witness to India's Partition

As a type of writing, poetry has an endless scope. At first, it can seem like an intimidating form of writing. But as you learn more about poetry and read different types of it, you might realize that you too have poems within you, left unwritten. So pick the pen up. All the best!

Up next is an article on short fiction!