Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognise it-it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this-such as Shelley's that the poets 'are the unacknowledged legislators of the world', and that poetry is 'a higher truth'.
In this Very Short Introduction, Bernard O'Donoghue provides a fascinating look at the many different forms of writing which have been called 'poetry'-from the Greeks to the present day. As well as questioning what poetry is, he asks what poetry is for, and considers contemporary debates on its value. Is there a universality to poetry? And does it have a duty of public utility and responsibility?
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