Due to erroneous Modernist and Postmodernist assumptions,
we must define poetry in terms of negatives.
Poetry is not words to be declaimed or sung. Poetry is words printed on a page, meant to be read in private, in contemplation, and in a place where sustained mental focus is possible. The voice of the poet is relatively unimportant; the explicit or implicit message of a poem is. Poetry is not about saying things in new ways or pushing the boundaries of language. The role of poetry is not to agitate for social change, although that may be an indirect secondary side-effect. Poetry is not convulsive unburdening of personal esthetic/emotional observations. Just because snow on a tree-limb looked beautiful to you, please don’t write a haiku about it. Poetry is not ephemeral or disposable. It must be composed of words which will endure long enough to be viable either short-term or long-term. Intentional obscurantism is the unpardonable poetic crime. Esoteric cryptography is not to be considered valid poetry. Ad jingles and Hallmark card verses constitute a more noble art than linguistic obfuscation. Say what you want to say poetically. Then work and re-work it.
Poetry is the most useless of arts and the most important. Why? Because it is difficult to commodify. But don’t fall for that drivel they taught you in school, “poetry is whatever you want it to be“. I call BS on that RIGHT NOW. Don’t just vomit it out there and make us clean it up. Dang. The hell wrong wit chu people? Poetry knows who you are and where you LIVE. Poetry is not playing around—those days are long over. Poetry kicked your English teacher’s cowardly ass and then spat on the semi-conscious twitching body before paying for everyone’s drinks and dancing her way out the emergency exit. What is poetry? I have NO IDEA, but Poetry knows. Problem is, that bitch won’t tell me. I still love her, though.