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What is Poetry?


What sets poetry apart from regular prose, or everyday communication, is that it has an element of rhythm; whether it is pleasing to the ear or not, is a matter of personal taste. The golden rule for all poets is that in order to improve their writing, they need to read poetry written, preferably, by as wide a range of poets as possible. Many poems are best read out loud, and this will help you to develop an ear for the rhythms found in poetry.

Not all poetry rhymes, and all rhymes do not constitute poetry. Rhyme refers to the various kinds of phonetic similarities between words, and the degree to which these devices are used in organised verse. The pattern of rhyme is referred to as the rhyme scheme. Generally speaking, a poetry form can be identified by the rhyme scheme it has employed; whereas certain poetry forms instruct us NOT to use rhyme, for example, Suzette Prime, haiku, tanka, etc. The traditional way to mark these patterns of rhyme is to assign a letter of the alphabet to each rhyming sound at the end of the line.

Poetry is a creative personal expression. It might take the form of various poetry formats, or have open form. No two sunsets are identical and the poet strives to paint a picture having no parallel, with mere words. The search for the right words to express the moment can be an agonising process for any poet, especially in the light of the fact that clichés are frowned upon.

As language is ever-changing, new forms or variations on different themes are inevitable. A good vocabulary; a general knowledge on diverse subjects such as legends, natural phenomena, current affairs, etc; and a keen eye for detail, are essential. Above all, a passion for the subject matter is a prerequisite to penning unique poetry—poetry can distil the essence of a topic like no prose could, getting to the heart of the matter by using only a few choice words.

On first reading, a good poem should evoke images which we perhaps identify with, or an emotion which moves us. When reading poetry we do not, as a rule, concentrate on the devices employed by the poet when he wrote the poem. But, unless one has a clear understanding of poetic devices, many poems can’t be fully understood, and as a poet, these skills are well worth mastering. The definitions of poetry forms are even at times confusing to the poets. However, much like we should not over-analyse why a relationship is working, one should steer clear of dissecting a poem to the point of rendering it a meaningless jumble of words on a page.

Being the recipient of a personalised card featuring a poem written for the occasion, is perhaps one of the best compliments one could receive, whether the poem adheres to all the strict formatting rules, or not.

Poetry is an excellent tool to use to overcome writer’s block; it has the ability to calm the mind. A valuable tool in trauma counselling—it can bring about closure to unresolved issues, and gives one a platform to vent anger. It assists in learning a new language, or the pronunciation of new words, e.g. quay (pronounced ‘key’), by rhyming, e.g. couplets. Word games, e.g. The Blitz, assist memory. Poetry is an interesting way in which you can retain information, e.g. abecedarian poems. 

Bearing in mind that poetry is an art form, take your time over the composition and enjoy the creative process. It is an echo of your psyche, and therefore, gives it a distinctive voice. Learn to view the world with fresh eyes and keep a notepad handy to jot down ideas as they come to you, or record a striking scene via your cellphone to be transcribed into poetic words at a later date.

Poems are not written in stone, and you might wish to return to it to make alterations. Do not discard the drafts as they might be the trigger for fresh ideas in the future. Accept that your poems will not find favour with everyone—even John Keats’ work was vehemently rejected during his lifetime.

Poetry is timeless and the legacy you leave through your thoughts thus captured might resonate throughout the ages, therefore, write about what is close to your heart and let your keen observations permeate your script. If YOU don’t feel the poem moving you, it will not move anyone else!

A poet is someone who has the courage to wear his heart on his sleeve. A word of caution: Like a moonwake follows you, so the urge to pen poetry will not readily relinquish its power over you.

You might not agree with my philosophy, but hopefully, it will give you a new perspective on various topics. What’s Poetry? is a poem written in the Suzette Prime poetry form, one of many poetry forms which I have designed over the years.



what’s poetry

it’s not a jumble of words

not glorified rhyme

not your thoughts jammed down my throat

or your ideologies displayed on the world stage


poetry is

balm to my bruised soul

the oil on troubled waters                                                                                        

that lifts my spirit like no other entity could


poetry helps me to

organise my thoughts

plan ahead



poetry leads me to

dig deep for new metaphoric expression

discard the mundane

see my world in a new light


if poetry does not move you

to laugh

to cry

to want to pull your hair out

above all: to lift your head out of the sand

then check for a pulse

you might very well

be dead




Copyright © Suzette Richards 2018

Author: Suzette Richards
I’m a retired bookkeeper – born and raised in Cape Town; now living in the Highveld region. I’m passionate about writing. Since 2012, I have joined a number of online poetry sites where. I was nominated as one of the Best Poets (past or present) on World Poetry Day, 21 March 2013, in Dazed, a UK magazine. I designed the new poetry form, ©Suzette Prime in 2012, which is listed on
My External Website (External Website Opens in New Window)


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