A particularity about language is that is a human creation, and as a human creation it can be understood and defined depending on the interactions of each individual with their environment.
This happens for almost every word in any language, and poetry is not different, there are as many definitions of what poetry is as there are poets and readers in the world. As the say, every head is a world.
Poetry According to Poets
The most common definition for poetry is that it is a form of literature that uses rhythmic and aesthetic qualities of language to elicit meanings behind the prosaic obvious meaning. William Wordsworth -one of the biggest British Romantic poets- defined it as an “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. Dylan Thomas -another big British poet and writer- said poetry is what makes him cry, or laugh, or yawn, what makes his toenails twinkle and makes him want to do this, or that, or nothing at all. Emily Dickinson -American poet- defined poetry as that thing that when she reads it her body gets so cold that no fire could warm it up. Mina Loy -a British artist, novelist and poet- defined it as a prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts and the sound of an idea.
Main Elements to define Poetry
Everyone has a definition and understanding of what poetry is, but there are definitely some general characteristics to Poetry. The most central characteristics to define poetry is that is not possible to label it or define it. Poetry is one of the biggest language constructions, just like a chiseled marble. One of the most definable characteristics of Poetry is Economy of language, poets tend to dole out words on a page in a very critical and miserly way, selecting words in a very unique and concise form, trying to have clarity in the prose, but on top of all these, they also add emotive qualities to their words, musical value and rhythm, double and triple entendre, they innovate on each line. The second element is definitely the added value of creating and evoking intense emotions in the readers, anger, love, joy, sadness, surprise. We need to remember poetry is a form of literature, so it is definitely trying to tell a story, describe states or experiences, convey ideas, enact dramas, but also giving a lot of weight to words themselves, the way they sound, the patterns and textures they make -either visually or phonetically-, the meanings they have.
To sum things up
It is not an easy task to define poetry, poetry is fresh and strong and reinvents itself everyday after every line and every page of poems and verses written by rookies and amateurs and read by people like us. Poetry is a very particular linguistic form as it can be written, spoken or performed, the same poetical piece can be interpreted differently depending on the form it is being shared by. It focuses on language’s aesthetics and is most commonly composed in verse. It also enables the use of metaphors and alliteration.