What makes poetry so special

What is poetry

Poetry or "poetry" is a term from the Greek and describes the art that uses imagination to express the possibilities of language in order to bring life and world experiences and interpretations closer to the listener or reader.

In its beginnings, poetry mainly conveyed religious and mythical beliefs in a rhythmic, pictorial way, such as in the Gilgamesh epic or in the psalms. From the beginning of human culture, the hymn, prayer, mythical-epic account, song of praise and saying have been handed down as poetic expressions. Poetry uses an external and internal form in language and thus differs from prose in everyday language. Poetry uses rhythm, meter, rhyme (all rhyme and end rhyme), the formation of stanzas, parallelism of the parts of the sentence, bold and free sentence design and also mainly symbolic statements such as paraphrases, images, similes and metaphors as an artistic means for shaping. More than the other arts, poetry is aimed at the spirit and soul of people in order to evoke emotions, to stimulate the imagination of listeners or readers, to touch their souls and to transform them.

In any case, language has an abundance of meaning and interpretation. With its sound, the wealth of images, views and ideas, the infinite store of knowledge, every topic can be worked on poetically. Through poetry, language is revitalized, experimented with (as in the time of Dadaism or in modern times) or as through the great classical poets and their linguistic aesthetic achievements for epoch-making or national expression. Thematically, the poetry turns, in addition to the basic motifs of love and death, to the respective questions of humanity. By setting up great norms based on models, poetry tries to give people a valid and binding answer to life (as in the Germanic hero song, the Nordic saga, the court epic, the baroque tragedy or in the German classical period). Regardless of the point in time when the works were created, they survive times and cultures in their poetic peak form and are thus universally valid and topical.

Even the most demanding poetic works have elements of entertainment and also serve the purpose of enjoyment, because the material should pleasantly captivate the audience and free them temporarily from the real constraints and restrictions.
In the less high-quality literature, the task of entertainment and diversion can become independent. Poetry then becomes a mere means of distraction and anesthesia (kitsch or dime novel, the so-called trash literature) in which sentimental and sensational stimuli are exploited.

There are three major genres of poetry: lyric, epic and drama. With the increasing secularization of culture, prose such as the late antique prose novel, the novels and stories of the modern age were included as a form of representation and increasingly served for entertainment and diversion. This meant that not only the poets were considered to be the creators of poetic works of art, but also the writers.

The essence of poetry can be determined:

1.) as imitation (mimesis) as already described by Aristotle in his "Poetics". Imitation can be understood on the one hand as a realistic depiction of reality (Horace "Ars poetica") and on the other hand as an imitation of the essential reality (the truth) of being. According to this, it is not the external realities and facts, but the ideal (ethical and metaphysical) values ​​of life that are represented in the symbolic poetic creations. This view prevailed from Aristotle to Goethe, the Romantics and Hebbel.

2.) as an expression of inner experience and experiences of the poetic individual (Goethe's designation of his poetry as "great denomination"). Herder, the young Goethe, and the poets of Sturm und Drang, in particular, represented this view in Germany. Dilthey renewed this theory in the 19th century in his treatise "The Experience and Poetry", 1905. Here, poetry can be understood as the expression of an individual, as the expression of the spirit and style of an era, exclusively as the expression of the spirit of a nation. This conception of poetry gave birth to the historical direction of literary studies.

3.) as an objectification and symbolization of certain basic questions about the meaning of the world and life, whereby it takes up a philosophical question. From this view, advocated by Hegel and Dilthey, the method of studying the history of ideas and the history of problems developed.

4.) as an exclusively aesthetic artifact. The focus is on the artistic design, style and form of the language.

5.) Another direction in literary study is based on the psychological basic types of poets: poets who are oriented towards the objectivity of being, be it as an ideal law of essence (classicism) or as a real combination of facts (realists, naturalists), or poets who focus on the Inwardness, the world of the soul, the dream, the imagination are directed (romantics); also poet of representational imagery, eye poet (classical) and poet of acoustic stimuli, musical sound, ear poet (romanticism); as well as predominantly intellectual types of poets (Lessing) and predominantly emotional ones (striker and urgeon, romantics, expressionists, surrealists).

Poetry can aim at different emphases and meanings in order to achieve certain effects such as instruction through description of reality (Lucretius) or an ethical-religious education (Reformation drama, baroque tragedy). Wherever it pursues such goals and at the same time neglects artistic aspects, it turns into a purely moral, political or confessional tendency poetry.

Sociological aspects are also in the foreground when considering literary studies. It is crucial here where poetry established itself and for which audience it was intended. The poet can belong to social classes which as such have nothing to do with poetry; He can be a knight (Wather vd Vogelweide, Wolfram v. Eschenbach), craftsman (Meistersinger), scholar (humanism and baroque), theologian and educator (Reformation period) or worker, or he is a poet (Klopstock, Hölderlin, romantic) .

In contrast, the poets stand as original geniuses, as autonomous creators of the poetic content, especially celebrated by Herder and the Sturm und Drang. This isolation of self-creating form and shape poetry (creators of private myths) characterizes the development of the 19th and 20th centuries in particular. Jakob Grimm's thesis, which was put forward in the Romantic era, seems to be appropriate, which states that folk poetry and art poetry are clearly different from one another. In the folk epic (Homer, Nibelungenlied), folk song and folk book (Eulenspiegel, Schildbürger), the poets take a back seat to the content of their works, the content of which has enjoyed constant rewriting and further poetry over the centuries, while in more recent times in poetry a conscious one A work of art is created, which remains directly connected to the individual traits of the individual poet.