What is a poem?

Crowd-sourced! I asked my friends on Facebook, “Tell me a thing you think a poem is, and a thing you think a poem is not.” Here are some of the answers I got:

  • A poem is original, not a cliche.
    Kirsten Huscusson
  • I think a poem is words and a poem is not words.
    Emily Doolittle

  • Have you read Mary Ruefle? Madness Rack & Honey is one long essay I want to excerpt in answer to your query. I read the book that it is in daily.

    Poetry is often the only way to discover and become and describe that which we so desperately need to have in our world, between the lines of what is or we are – it lives in the spaces between and we carve it into existence with sound and pixels and ink.

    Poems are both birth and death.  Lisa Rokusek

  • Poetry is vulnerability. Poetry is not packaged neatly for the masses.
    Jamie Herron
  • A poem is a distillation of a thought, a memory, or a feeling, but it is not a confession
    Sheree Renée Thomas
  • Poetry is where knowing quickens into music.
    Klyd Watkins
  • a poem is emotional truth/a poem is not factual
    Julene T. Weaver
  • every
    is a Poem

    Not what a poem is Not
    what it need not be

    it need not be prettymoonjuneballoonflutteringlashessunsethandinhandandhearts

    but it can

    it can be
    the sound of choking
    in a hidden prison
    the numbness
    of three jobs two kids no words

    mass graves
    a roach cleaning her antennae

    it can be
    the devout cliches
    of a dying elder

    the droning angst
    of a teenager
    to kill a secret

    bad grammar
    bad form

    yet with a voice
    a DNA
    of need

    a sloppy scrawl
    of run-on prose

    rhyme slanted
    hard enough to snap
    stuttered meter
    of a diseased heart

    It can be garbage
    or left to decay
    slipping the bonds
    of language

    the mnemonic
    of atoms whose existence
    writes itself
     Elissa Malcohn