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  Poetry (Greek, ‘art of assembling (words)’) is verse with cultural affectation. Part of its effect, which verse does not always share, is a kind of self-advertising display, an invitation to us to admire not just what is being said but the ‘elevated’ manner of the saying. (Indeed, in bad poetry, manner can be all that is on offer.) There are analogies with counterpoint in music—and like counterpoint, poetry is written to a set of elaborate and ingenious rules, which can corset or straitjacket creativity, distil the art or reduce it entirely to hot air. Dramatic poems are in the form of dialogue (not all are plays for the stage); epic and narrative poems tell stories (epic usually with a grander, less anecdotal sweep); lyric poetry explores single moments or moods. Each uses a particular repertoire of forms and procedures to manipulate sound, rhythm and syntax in ways which are analogous to, but essentially distinct from, prose. In the ancient world, poetry was generally regarded as the only fit medium for ‘high’ literary expression, and prose was reserved for more everyday communication. The modern world has elevated prose writing to an art form, but poetry still keeps its place on the literary high ground, as if its distillation and ritualization of linguistic expression were the Holy Grail of literary craftsmanship. KMcL  



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