What makes a poem a poem?

Walt Whitman's use of free verse became apprec...
Walt Whitman’s use of free verse became appreciated by composers seeking a more fluid approach to setting text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is a poem? Some may think a poem has to rhyme. (I disagree.) Others believe the syllables must be counted, or that a poem must be stuffed full of alliterative language. But what about free verse? What makes a block of words, a sentence chopped up onto several lines, a poem, rather than a mere chopped-up sentence or a paragraph scattered over several lines?

To me, writing a poem is about capturing a moment. It could be a feeling, a natural occurrence, or a quick glimpse into the life of one person. Most of my poetry describes just one, very small moment. These moments might last only a few seconds, or as long as several minutes. Rarely does the poem capture more than a very short block of time.

What makes these descriptive sentences poetry, at least in my mind, is the fact that these moments mirror life. They often mirror human nature. What makes a few lines of free verse poetry is the fact that what began as a single captured moment can also be interpreted as a metaphor for life at large. The ability to interpret that moment on a wider, deeper level is what makes it poetic.

What constitutes a poem, in your opinion? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

~Mandy Webster

1 thought on “What makes a poem a poem?”

  1. I love this post! In my mind, what makes a poem a poem is when the imagery and the flow and the moment seem like art to me. This could be in rhyme and meter, free verse, or anywhere in between. It depends what the artist (in this case a writer) does with it.

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