What is poetry?

A poem
makes us see
everything for
the first time

Francisco X. Alarcón
from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems

Gathered in the Writing Studio recently, a colleague told a group of youngsters that “poetry is not music.”

Stunned, I quietly reeled through a catalog of my favorite musician/poets: Jackson Browne, Michael Franti, Tracy Chapman, Roger Waters . . .

Over the next few days I grew indignant. Of course poetry is music! Of course music is poetry! Both share a musical language, a crafting of words and sound. I came to poetry through music — for pete’s sake! As early as second grade I was reciting Harry Chapin’s Cat's in the Cradle to my peers.

In the cooling off period since the songwriting session, I have tuned down emotion and turned up intellect. If music is not poetry, What is poetry? Through research I gathered numerous esoteric — and beautifully written — responses but a tangible answer eludes me. And if I can’t answer the question, how can I explain to others why poetry is in everything, including music?

I’m looking for answers, and I’d love to hear from you.