History of Poetry

The crown of literature is poetry. — W. Somerset Maugham


History of Poetry

Poetry, at its most basic, is considered one of the oldest art forms — even predating literacy. In ancient times, it was a way of conveying historical facts, culture, traditions, etc. Because poetry has certain structures to it, the art form is easier to memorize and remember; thereby, aiding in message transmission for generation after generation. Literary prose, on the other hand, came much later on as it not only required literacy but also presented ideas in complex text forms.

From being recorded on stones, monoliths, or simply in human memory, poetry used selected words, rhymes, meanings, and meter in a set structure. A brief timeline of poetry forms shows that after being memorized, around 2500–2000 B.C., poetry was being written in epic forms, which are long texts of poetry that convey a story. Proceeding from there, poetry was also seen in ballads starting from 11–7 B.C. Moving a little further into the future, sonnets were being produced in the 13th century, with restoration and modern poetry arriving four centuries later.

Partial tablet from “The Epic of Gilgamesh” — Wikipedia

The “Epic of Gilgamesh” is thought to be the oldest recorded form of poetry. It was written in 2100 B.C. on tablets that were then used on city walls. Other ancient epics include India’s “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana” (both of which form an important part of Indian mythology) and the Greek “Iliad” and “Odyssey” by Homer. Just like Indian mythology is represented in epic poetry forms, other religions also employ poetry to form hymns and chants to be recited during mass public gatherings. As the years passed by, poetry was also being used to either express oneself or fight against oppression. In the modern day and age of the internet, Instagram poets have become a genre unto themselves. Many unestablished or amateur poets use the platform to publish their poems in visual forms.

A Reading from Homer (1885) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Poetry, being a branch of literature, lends us a medium to convey thoughts and feelings by weaving words into simplistic and/or intricate designs using methods like rhyme, meter, metaphors, personification, etc. Much like prose, poetry, too, tells a story and, in this case, it can do so simply by using the number of words in a row or the placement of punctuation in a certain manner. In the old days, if you were a poet, poetry was a means of settling scores with your competitor and reaching new heights of fame. Kings and queens would appoint a poet in their court to sing the ruler’s praises and degrade their enemies.

Poetry is the eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Lady Reading Poetry by Ishibashi Kuzunori

POETRY is a unifying factor. It is a form of expression that can cover any subject and human emotion.

POETRY is OMNIPRESENT
POETRY is BRIEF AND POWERFUL
POETRY is a CREATIVE FORM OF EXPRESSION
POETRY promotes COMMUNICATION AND DIALOGUE
POETRY is ENJOYABLE
POEMS are BEAUTIFUL WORKS OF ART

April 28th is National Great Poetry Reading Day which celebrates distinguished poetry and the notable poets who wrote them.