An Introduction to Poetry

Sophia Dewael, MVCurrent Writer

Since poetry does not follow the standard convention rules and sentence structure like other forms of writing, some people find it incomprehensible. It does not have to be confusing though. 


Poetry, like all writing, has evolved throughout the time periods as dialects have changed. Poetry from the 1800s is hard to read like all literature from the 1800s is hard to read. Luckily, just like there is contemporary literature and contemporary dance, there is also contemporary poetry. 


Contemporary poetry is characterized by its simple and casual language. In its very essence, it is not the stereotypical hard-to-read poetry that people first think of when they hear the word “poetry.” The contemporary movement may have started in the mid-1900s, but since then poetry has continued to evolve. That is the thing about art forms, they are never stagnant.


One part of contemporary poetry that stands out is spoken word, or slam poetry. It is when a poet performs their poem and uses thematics, hand gestures, and tone changes. Marc Kelly Smith created slam poetry while in Chicago during the 1980s. He did it to restore passion to poetry, and since then, slam poetry is characterized by its bursts of passion. It allows observers to understand the tone of the poem when they might not have been able to so by just reading it for themselves. It allows the writer to express what they intended for the poem when they wrote it. With the creation of the internet, slam poetry is very accessible. By just searching “slam poetry” on YouTube, a person can find hundreds of performances that they can watch from anywhere.


The accessibility of slam poetry is true for all types of poetry, many contemporary poets start out just posting their poems to Instagram. In fact, one of the biggest names in poetry, Rupi Kaur, started out that way. She has published three poetry collections: “Milk and Honey,” “The Sun and Her Flowers,” and “Home Body.” Her style is characterized by the lack of rhyming and punctuation. She gets attention because she breaks those traditional rules.


She is not the only one making a name for herself; Amanda Gorman is a twenty-two year-old woman who performed a poem at President Biden’s Inauguration on January 20, 2021. Since her performance of “The Hill We Climb,” she has quickly gained a following and has become a best-selling author for poetry collections.


Another innovative poet is Elizabeth Acevedo, who is most known for her novel “The Poet X,” which is a story told entirely through verse. Most of the novel reads like a fanciful diary, but in the work some fully formed slam poems are included. She has other books that are also told as a combination of prose and poetry such as her newest novel, “Clap When You Land.”


“The Poet X is a terrific testimony to Elizabeth Acevedo’s skilful story-telling as well as her clear talent for poetry. The novel is written in verse, a series of short poems, creating a fifteen-year-old slam poet’s diary,” said Eben Robbis of the Young Poets Network.


It was published in March of 2018 and has already gone on to be awarded with the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Carnegie Medal, and the Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Fiction. It stands as a middle ground between poetry and literature, being accessible for all people to enjoy while also still being poetry.


Although these are some of the big names of poetry, there are countless other profound contemporary poets. Just to name a few: Ocean Vuong, Amanda Lovelace, Fatimah Asghar, Maggie Nelson, and Alexandra Vasiliu.


Every poet’s style is different, so people should not give up if they do not like the first poem or poetry collection they read. Even each poet’s style can differ poem from poem. It can be hard for a person to initially find poems that they like, but if they persevere they will be able to find poems that they can connect with. Poetry is important because it is a way to express feelings, emotions, and ideas. Poetry can be powerful, if readers just have the patience.