By: S. Costa Franco
Poetry has been universally defined as a specific genre of literature in which special emphasis is placed on feelings and ideas, which are expressed through the use of a particular style and rhythm. The term has also often been used to define speech which sounds rhythmic and sonorously appealing.
The origins of this genre are thought to date back to between 15,000 and 13,000 B.C., when ancient shamans would recount tales through pictures. The sequence and build-up of the images, as well as how they are combined, could be perceived as having certain elements which are similar to our present understanding of poetry. Cave paintings in Lascaux, France depict this occurrence.
Image depicting a cave painting in Lascaux, France - http://www.webexhibits.org/poetry/background.html#:~:text=Poetry%20probably%20dates%20back%20to,between%2015000%20and%2013000%20B.C.
Over time, however, language gradually developed, prompting oral storytellers to relate tales in distant lands using stylistic forms. It is believed that stanzaic speech separated into verses arose as a result of natural pauses found in the storytellers' performance. As this means of communication grew, it came to be utilized as a method of expressing one's inner thoughts, as well as reflecting the conditions of the society surrounding them. The life of legends and development of civilizations were all told through the reciting of poetry.
However, the main moments in which poetry was able to flourish were in historical periods which acted as fertile ground for creative art forms, particularly in more open societies. For instance, during the Renaissance period in Europe, forms of artistry became far more popular, and among these, was poetry. Whilst this is an obvious example, the forward leap of poetry occurred far before this, during the rise of two great cultures – Sumeria and Ancient Greece. Two women, Enheduanna and Sappho, were crucial to the development of poetic lyric in this time period. Additionally, several prominent Italian poets in medieval Europe, such as Giovanni Bocacchio and Dante Alighieri, which perpetuated the poetic boom in Italy, were inspired by ancient scrolls containing Chinese poems.
Over time, poetry continued to grow and change, thus becoming an essential part of our current society. Poetry has now influenced new modern genres of art and continues to act as a method of reflecting on the conditions of the world around us. In fact, the term 'rap' in 'rap music' is an acronym for the words 'rhythm and poetry', clearly depicting how much poetry continues to impact the modern artistic universe. Striking examples of instances where simple poetic verses took the world by storm include Amanda Gorman's performance at the presidential inauguration, musicals such as Broadway's Hamilton, and artists who use poetry to recount the challenges faced by modern generations, such as Rupi Kaur. Each of these examples highlight how poetic verse is still used to create an impact and perpetuate change. The rhythm and stylistic devices contained within poetry can in fact be very efficient when conveying a particular message or emotive experience to an audience.
In closing, what we can draw from this is that artistic forms are essential to the functioning of any society, be they old or new, and these means of communication are fundamental when it comes to human interaction. Even forms of artistry as ancient as poetry are continuously adapted to fit the modern agenda, and it is fascinating to explore how the current art we see today has impacted the history of human development.