Chapter 2: What makes a poem a poem?

The second chapter of “Writing the Poetic Life” explores what the author calls the four “most common ingredients” in poetry. 

They are:
  1. Compression
  2. Lines and stanzas
  3. Music
  4. Imagery
Compression is the ability to express as much as possible with as few words as possible.  Probably the zenith of such activity is Haiku.  But that is not always the case.  T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland
is a very long poem and relies on a lot of literary allusion.  You could probably argue that this poem still has an economy with words, despite there being five sections, three of which are comprised of at least 5 stanzas.
Lines and stanzas relate to the way ideas are formatted in a poem.  Some poems are just one stanza with many lines.  Other poems are just one word on a line in many stanzas.  If you can suggest some to me of either ilk, that would be great.  Maybe some of yours fit into either category.  Alternatively poetry is not limited these days to line and stanzas; concrete poetry is a typographical depiction of the subject of the poetry.  I like kinetic typography, my favourite example of which is this lovely clip of Stephen Fry talking about language, although this is less a poem with lines and stanzas than it is a polemic prose piece.  I encourage you to search for the Hungry Beast kinetic typography clips when they analyse statistics about particular corporations and organisations.
Stephen Fry – may words never fail him!
Music relates to beat and use of consonants to create a unifying whole. in poetic parlance we use the meter to indicate the stop and go of words on the page. It is reinforced by alliteration or rhyme.
Imagery is the ability to compare one idea to another using simile and metaphor.  I personally think it goes a bit deeper.  I was taught that a good poem engages all the five senses to immerse the reader in a complete poetic experience.
There were no challenges to this chapter.  And so I took the four ingredients and created a poem that addressed all of them in a fairly poetic and clinical manner.  It is by no means as compressed as compression should be but I ask you…what does “Should” mean?

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