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  • By Dana Gioia

What Is Poetry? 10 Observations About the Art by Dana Gioia


This video is the first in a series of introductory talks on the art of poetry. They explore how to read, study, and enjoy poetry. The most ancient art, poetry emerged before writing as a form of song--speech shaped for music effect. It uses every means by which language communicates to create a particular meaning and effect. By studying poetry you'll understand how to use the full power and range of language. Poetry also reminds us that the physical sound and rhythm of words are parts of their meaning. The form a statement takes becomes part of its meaning. In this video I make 10 observations about poetry formed over a lifetime of reading and writing it.


Dana Gioia is the author of several poetry collections, including 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf Press, 2016); Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001), winner of the American Book Award; The Gods of Winter (Graywolf Press, 1991); and Daily Horoscope (Graywolf Press, 1986).

7 Comments


martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Feb 08

I have just listened to this (about four months after it was written) and I couldn't agree more with all you've said - especially your point about poetry being 'a sacred art'. I couldn't write poetry at all if I didn't believe this - and, like Sappho, I have come to believe that all great art is a gift from the Gods or the Muses, and that it has the power to transcend our brief lives here precisely because there is something sacred and magical about it. You could even say it has, at times, more than 'a touch of stardust.'


Thanks for your instructive video. I enjoyed listening to it.

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jm6783685
jm6783685
May 19, 2023

I would like to add to these observations an observation of my own, which seems to sum up all the other observations. And that is: that *poetry is memorable wisdom*.


That wisdom is important can be seen from the fact that its negation has to be stupidity or foolishness. And who wants to be foolish or stupid? (Note, these are not opposites they are negations. Where wisdom is lacking only foolishness or stupidity can take its place.)


Of course I realise that wisdom isn't very sexy, because wisdom is the province of the old. And old age isn't sexy. Whereas sexiness is the province of the young. Who have a pronounced tendency to be foolish. If they are lucky they…


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bobbyfunderburk1
bobbyfunderburk1
Feb 16
Replying to

"But only words can communicate wisdom." I believe that the way we live can communicate wisdom even more powerfully than words. Of course much greater numbers of people can be reached by words, but applying words of wisdom to life is the true test of wisdom. This is made clear to me by the CRT, Racial Equity and "Trans" precepts which are being taught in the schools of America. They are thought wise by their promoters and teachers but are making a shambles of our educational system. In this same vein, but using the subject of faith are Paul's words "Show me your faith without works and I'll show you my faith by my works."

jm, I think you hit…

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