9 junio, 2024

Poetry: what it is, origin, characteristics, genres, examples

What is poetry?

The poetry It is one of the main manifestations of literature, that is, of writing with an artistic purpose.

It is almost always written in verse. The verses can have rhyme and meter or they can be free in length and sound. But even in this last case, the poet takes special care that his verses flow in a harmonious and rhythmic way, so that they are pleasant to read and recite.

Poetry usually expresses the most personal feelings of the author: nostalgia, sadness, love or pain over the death of a friend. However, it has also been used to narrate ancient legends and fables.

There is also humorous poetry cultivated, among others, by the Spanish Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) and more contemporaneously by the Venezuelan Aquiles Nazoa (1920-1976).

The origin of poetry

Poetry has been appreciated by many different cultures since very ancient times. He Gilgamesh poemwhere the exploits of this Sumerian hero are narrated, was written on clay tablets 2,000 years before our era.

For a long time, poetry was inseparable from music. The poems were texts conceived to be sung or recited with instrumental accompaniment, which could be a lyre (in Greco-Roman Antiquity), a vihuela or lute (in the Middle Ages), a guitar or more recently a piano.

With this purpose the first great poems of Western literature were written: The Iliad and The odysseyattributed to Homer 800 years before our era.

The first lyrical poems, in which the poet expresses personal feelings, were written by the Greek poet Sappho and by Anacreon, also Greek, between the years 600 and 500 BC.

In the Middle Ages, ballads, which are narrative poems, were sung or recited by minstrels.

Only after the Renaissance, in the 16th century, did the poetic text begin to emancipate itself from music and to be considered an independent artistic genre.

With Romanticism, between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, poetry reached one of its highest expressions.

characteristics of poetry

Although in the late 19th century the French poet Charles Baudelaire began writing prose poems, most poetry has been and continues to be written in verse.

has metric

In many poems the lines have a defined extension that is measured in number of syllables.

Narrative poetry, like Spanish romance, has verses of eight syllables or eight syllables. On the other hand, a lyrical poetic form such as the sonnet presents verses of 11 syllables or hendecasyllables.

has rhyme

The rhyme is the repetition of a group of letters at the end of two or more verses. The rhyme provides rhythm to the poem and can be consonant or assonant.

In the consonant rhyme, each and every one of the letters is repeated. For example, in the second and third lines of the following stanza:

To a honeycomb of rich honey

two thousand flies flockedthey went

that for greedy muthey went

paw preys on it.

(Felix Maria de Samaniego)

In the assonance rhyme only the vowels are repeated and from the last tonic vowel of the verse. Examples are lines one and two of the following stanza:

I will die in Paris with aguacwas,

a day of which I already have the memoryerdo.

I’ll die in Paris –and I won’t run–

maybe a Thursday, as it is today in autumn.

(Cesar Vallejo)

It can be written in free verses

Poetry can also be written in verses that do not have a defined meter or rhyme, called free verses.

However, in these cases the poet calculates the length of his verses and the sounds of the words to create the sensation of harmony and rhythm.

It is divided into stanzas

The stanza is to verse what the paragraph is to prose.

We can consider it a set of verses that, together, present and develop an independent poetic idea.

Most stanzas are two, three, or four lines long.


Epic poetry or epic is the one that narrates the adventures and exploits of the heroes. Examples are: the iliad of Homer; medieval epic songs, such as the Song of Roldán; he Poem of the Cid or the Ballads of the Cidamong others.


In this type of poetry the author expresses intimate, personal feelings. As an example we have this famous sonnet by Francisco de Quevedo:

constant love beyond death

May close my eyes last

shadow that the white day will take me,

and will be able to unleash this soul of mine,

time to his anxious eagerness flattery;

but no, from that other part on the shore,

will leave the memory, where it burned:

swimming knows my flame the cold water,

And lose respect for severe law.

Soul to whom a prison god has been,

veins that humor to so much fire they have given,

marrows that have gloriously burned,

your body will leave, not your care;

they will be ashes but it will make sense;

Dust they will be, more dust in love.


In this type of poetry, the author gives free rein to his wit with the intention of parodying other poets, poetry itself or some social situation.

As an example, let’s take a fragment of the following poem by Aquiles Nazoa:

Love, when I die…

Love, when I die, don’t dress as a widow,

Don’t cry shaking like someone who sneezes

nor suffer «tantrums» that alarm the neighborhood,

Don’t even buy drops from Carmen to prevent them.


Don’t sit next to my mortuary drawer

using your sisters-in-law as a prie-dieu;

And when someone, beloved, comes to offer you their condolences,

do not open your arms to him in an attitude of kiss me!


Love, when I die, don’t do what everyone does;

do not copy their styles, do not repeat their fashions:

That although in mists of oblivion my name remains extinct,

let the world at least know that I was a different dead person!

the haiku

It is a style of Japanese poetry related to Zen Buddhism. It is composed of very short stanzas of only three lines. Its main representative is the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). As an example, we transcribe one of his haiku:

Moonless night.

The storm crushes

the old cedars

Examples of famous poems

Throughout the article we have talked about the most famous poems, examples of these can be the Gilgamesh poemor the epic poems of the iliad and the Odysseyjust like him Poem of the Cid.

Each culture has its poetic tradition, as it is an intrinsic part of its identity. Thus, we have Dante (1265-1321) and his Divine Comedywhich decisively influenced medieval poetry and marked the transition to Renaissance thought.

paradise lostby John Milton (1608-1674), a narrative poem considered a classic of English literature.

another poem is The Ravenby Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), one of the most famous poems in modern literature.

EITHER Martin Fierroa gaucho poem written by the Argentine José Hernández (1834-1886), which compiles the life of the gauchos and their customs.

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