The Parnassus (1511) by Raphael: famous poets recite alongside the nine Muses atop Mount Parnassus.

Poetry (derived from the Greek poiesis, "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic[1][2][3] qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Poetry has a long history dating back to prehistoric times with hunting poetry in Africa, and to panegyric and elegiac court poetry of the empires of the Nile, Niger, and Volta River valleys.[4] Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa is found among the Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BCE. The earliest Western Asian epic poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in Sumerian.

Early poems in the Eurasian continent evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing; or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, the Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greek attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song, and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form, and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively-informative prosaic writing.

Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony, and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, and metonymy[5] create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.

Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz, or Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter. There are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition,[6] testing the principle of euphony itself or altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm.[7][8] In today's increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles, and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.


The oldest known love poem. Sumerian terracotta tablet from Nippur, Iraq. Ur III period, 2037–2029 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

Some scholars believe that the art of poetry may predate literacy.[9][10] Others, however, suggest that poetry did not necessarily predate writing.[11][need quotation to verify]

The oldest surviving epic poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, dates from the 3rd millennium BCE in Sumer (in Mesopotamia, now Iraq), and was written in cuneiform script on clay tablets and, later, on papyrus.[12] A tablet dating to c. 2000 BCE describes an annual rite in which the king symbolically married and mated with the goddess Inanna to ensure fertility and prosperity; some have labelled it the world's oldest love poem.[13][14] An example of Egyptian epic poetry is The Story of Sinuhe (c. 1800 BCE).

An early Chinese poetics, the Kǒngzǐ Shīlùn (孔子詩論), discussing the Shijing (Classic of Poetry)

Other ancient epic poetry includes the Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey; the Avestan books, the Gathic Avesta and the Yasna; the Roman national epic, Virgil's Aeneid (written between 29 and 19 BCE); and the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Epic poetry, including the Odyssey, the Gathas, and the Indian Vedas, appears to have been composed in poetic form as an aid to memorization and oral transmission in prehistoric and ancient societies.[11][15]

Other forms of poetry developed directly from folk songs. The earliest entries in the oldest extant collection of Chinese poetry, the Shijing, were initially lyrics.[16]

The efforts of ancient thinkers to determine what makes poetry distinctive as a form, and what distinguishes good poetry from bad, resulted in "poetics"—the study of the aesthetics of poetry.[17] Some ancient societies, such as China's through her Shijing (Classic of Poetry), developed canons of poetic works that had ritual as well as aesthetic importance.[18] More recently, thinkers have struggled to find a definition that could encompass formal differences as great as those between Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Matsuo Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi, as well as differences in content spanning Tanakh religious poetry, love poetry, and rap.[19]

Western traditions

Classical thinkers in the West employed classification as a way to define and assess the quality of poetry. Notably, the existing fragments of Aristotle's Poetics describe three genres of poetry—the epic, the comic, and the tragic—and develop rules to distinguish the highest-quality poetry in each genre, based on the perceived underlying purposes of the genre.[20] Later aestheticians identified three major genres: epic poetry, lyric poetry, and dramatic poetry, treating comedy and tragedy as subgenres of dramatic poetry.[21]

Aristotle's work was influential throughout the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age,[22] as well as in Europe during the Renaissance.[23] Later poets and aestheticians often distinguished poetry from, and defined it in opposition to prose, which they generally understood as writing with a proclivity to logical explication and a linear narrative structure.[24]

This does not imply that poetry is illogical or lacks narration, but rather that poetry is an attempt to render the beautiful or sublime without the burden of engaging the logical or narrative thought-process. English Romantic poet John Keats termed this escape from logic "Negative capability".[25] This "romantic" approach views form as a key element of successful poetry because form is abstract and distinct from the underlying notional logic. This approach remained influential into the 20th century.[26]

During this period,[when?] there was also substantially more interaction among the various poetic traditions, in part due to the spread of European colonialism and the attendant rise in global trade.[27] In addition to a boom in translation, during the Romantic period numerous ancient works were rediscovered.[28]

20th-century and 21st-century disputes

Some 20th-century literary theorists, relying less on the opposition of prose and poetry, focused on the poet as simply one who creates using language, and poetry as what the poet creates.[29] The underlying concept of the poet as creator is not uncommon, and some modernist poets essentially do not distinguish between the creation of a poem with words, and creative acts in other media. Yet other modernists challenge the very attempt to define poetry as misguided.[30]

The rejection of traditional forms and structures for poetry that began in the first half of the 20th century coincided with a questioning of the purpose and meaning of traditional definitions of poetry and of distinctions between poetry and prose, particularly given examples of poetic prose and prosaic poetry. Numerous modernist poets have written in non-traditional forms or in what traditionally would have been considered prose, although their writing was generally infused with poetic diction and often with rhythm and tone established by non-metrical means. While there was a substantial formalist reaction within the modernist schools to the breakdown of structure, this reaction focused as much on the development of new formal structures and syntheses as on the revival of older forms and structures.[31]

Recently,[when?] postmodernism has come to regard more completely prose and poetry as distinct entities, and also different genres of poetry as having meaning only as cultural artifacts. Postmodernism goes beyond modernism's emphasis on the creative role of the poet, to emphasize the role of the reader of a text (hermeneutics), and to highlight the complex cultural web within which a poem is read.[32] Today, throughout the world, poetry often incorporates poetic form and diction from other cultures and from the past, further confounding attempts at definition and classification that once made sense within a tradition such as the Western canon.[33]

The early 21st-century poetic tradition appears to continue to strongly orient itself to earlier precursor poetic traditions such as those initiated by Whitman, Emerson, and Wordsworth. The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman (1929-2016) used the phrase "the anxiety of demand" to describe the contemporary response to older poetic traditions as "being fearful that the fact no longer has a form",[34] building on a trope introduced by Emerson. Emerson had maintained that in the debate concerning poetic structure where either "form" or "fact" could predominate, that one need simply "Ask the fact for the form." This has been challenged at various levels by other literary scholars such as Bloom (1930-2019), who has stated: "The generation of poets who stand together now, mature and ready to write the major American verse of the twenty-first century, may yet be seen as what Stevens called 'a great shadow's last embellishment,' the shadow being Emerson's."[35]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Poësie
Alemannisch: Poesie
አማርኛ: ቅኔ
العربية: شعر (أدب)
aragonés: Poesía
অসমীয়া: কবিতা
asturianu: Poesía
Avañe'ẽ: Ñe'ẽpapa
Aymar aru: Jarawi
azərbaycanca: Poeziya
تۆرکجه: شعر
বাংলা: কবিতা
Bân-lâm-gú: Koa-si
башҡортса: Шиғриәт
беларуская: Паэзія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Паэзія
भोजपुरी: कबिता
Bikol Central: Rawitdawit
български: Поезия
བོད་ཡིག: སྙན་ངག
bosanski: Poezija
brezhoneg: Barzhoniezh
буряад: Уран шүлэг
català: Poesia
Cebuano: Balak
čeština: Poezie
corsu: Puesia
Cymraeg: Barddoniaeth
Deutsch: Poesie
eesti: Luule
Ελληνικά: Ποίηση
español: Poesía
Esperanto: Poezio
estremeñu: Poesia
euskara: Olerkigintza
فارسی: شعر
Fiji Hindi: Poetry
français: Poésie
Frysk: Poëzy
Gaeilge: Filíocht
Gaelg: Feeleeaght
Gàidhlig: Bàrdachd
galego: Poesía
ГӀалгӀай: Оазарле
한국어: 시 (문학)
հայերեն: Պոեզիա
हिन्दी: काव्य
hrvatski: Poezija
Ido: Poezio
Igbo: Ábu
Ilokano: Dandaniw
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: কবিতা
Bahasa Indonesia: Puisi
interlingua: Poesia
Interlingue: Poesie
Ирон: Поэзи
íslenska: Ljóðlist
italiano: Poesia
עברית: שירה
Jawa: Geguritan
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಕವನ
къарачай-малкъар: Поэзия
ქართული: პოეზია
қазақша: Поэзия
kernowek: Bardhonieth
Kiswahili: Ushairi
Kreyòl ayisyen: Pwezi
kurdî: Helbest
Кыргызча: Поэзия
Ladino: Poeziya
Latina: Poësis
latviešu: Dzeja
lietuvių: Poezija
Limburgs: Poëzie
Lingua Franca Nova: Poesia
Livvinkarjala: Runohus
la .lojban.: pemci
lumbaart: Puesia
magyar: Költészet
मैथिली: काव्य
македонски: Поезија
മലയാളം: കവിത
Malti: Poeżija
मराठी: कविता
მარგალური: პოეტი
مصرى: شعر
Bahasa Melayu: Puisi
монгол: Шүлэг
Nāhuatl: Xochicuicatl
Nederlands: Poëzie
नेपाली: कविता
नेपाल भाषा: चिनाखँ
нохчийн: Поэзи
norsk: Poesi
norsk nynorsk: Dikt
Nouormand: Pouésie
occitan: Poesia
олык марий: Мурпаша
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: କାବ୍ୟ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Sheʼriyat
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕਵਿਤਾ
پنجابی: شاعری
Papiamentu: Poesia
پښتو: شعر
Patois: Puoychri
Picard: Poésie
Piemontèis: Poesìa
polski: Poezja
Ποντιακά: Ποιητικήν
português: Poesia
Qaraqalpaqsha: Poeziya
română: Poezie
Runa Simi: Harawi
русиньскый: Поезія
русский: Поэзия
संस्कृतम्: काव्यम्
Scots: Poetry
Seeltersk: Dichtenge
Setswana: Poko
shqip: Poezia
සිංහල: කාව්‍යය
Simple English: Poetry
سنڌي: نظم
SiSwati: Bunkondlo
slovenčina: Poézia
slovenščina: Pesništvo
Soomaaliga: Gabay
کوردی: شیعر
српски / srpski: Поезија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Poezija
Sunda: Puisi
suomi: Runous
svenska: Poesi
Tagalog: Panulaan
தமிழ்: கவிதை
татарча/tatarça: Шигърият
తెలుగు: కవి
тоҷикӣ: Назм
Türkçe: Şiir
українська: Поезія
اردو: شاعری
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: شېئىر
Vahcuengh: Sei
vepsän kel’: Runoišt
Tiếng Việt: Thơ
Volapük: Poedav
walon: Powezeye
West-Vlams: Dichtkunste
Winaray: Siday
ייִדיש: דיכטונג
Yorùbá: Ewì
Zazaki: Şıir
žemaitėška: Puoezėjė
中文: 诗歌
kriyòl gwiyannen: Poézi
ဘာသာ မန်: ကဗျ