Poetry is an old and very diverse literary art form in which language is used in a number of different ways to produce an effect on the reader. Often poems utilise language for aesthetic, evocative and stylistic reasons - in addition to the actual and material meaning and message of the poem. Poetry goes back so far into human history that it is hard to see its clear beginnings. Poetry is sometimes even argued to be a fundamental aspect of language itself, which works through the act of metaphor and symbolism in order to create meaning. Poems have changed a lot over the ages, with specific cultures producing poetry in distinct styles relating to the language and time period of creation.
Poetry may predate literacy itself, with ancient works perhaps created to aid the oral transmission of information in prehistoric cultures. The oldest poem that we know about is the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ - created in Sumer in the 3rd millennium BC. Other ancient works include the ‘Iliad’, the ‘Odyssey’, Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’, and the Indian epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’. While there are a huge number of possible forms that a poem can take, there are also a number of basic elements that most poems employ. While modern poetry often experiments with the breaking of these conventions, meter, rhythm, metrical patterns and rhyme have always been the central tenants of poetry.
Meter is the organisation of poetic feet into lines based on syllables and the length of vowel sounds. Poetic rhythm varies a lot across cultures and time periods, with different countries creating poems with a timing based on accents, syllables, or moras. Metrical patterns also differ a lot across cultures, with some common patterns being the Iambic pentameter, the Iambic tetrameter, the Dactylic hexameter and the Anapestic tetrameter. The relationship of poems to rhyme is often controversial, with many modern creations attempting to break the unspoken convention that a poem always has to rhyme.
While many modern poems (Gedichte) also experiment with the nature of form itself, there are a number of traditional poetic forms that are still appreciated all around the world. Some of the most famous poetic forms include Sonnets, Jintishi, Rondeau, Villanelle, Haiku and the Ode. Poems are an important part of our literary tradition, and are a special art form that always has and probably always will resonate with the human soul.