Poetics refers generally to the theory of literary discourse and specifically to the theory of poetry, although some speakers use the term so broadly as to denote the concept of "theory" itself.


Scholar T.V.F. Brogan identifiescite book | last = Brogan | first = T. | title = The New Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms | publisher = Princeton University Press | location = Princeton | year = 1994 | isbn = 9780691036724 ] three major movements in Western poetics over the past 3000 years, beginning with the formalist, objectivist Aristotelian tradition. During the romantic era, poetics tended toward expressionism and emphasized the perceiving subject. The 20th century witnessed a return to the Aristotelian paradigm, followed by trends toward metacriticality, or the establishment of a theory of poetics.

Eastern poetics developed primarily with reference to the lyric, as opposed to the mimetic.

Imagery as Structure

In their book "More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor"cite book | last = Lakoff | first = George | coauthors = Mark Turner | title = More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor | publisher = University of Chicago Press | location = Chicago | year = 1989 | isbn = 0226468127 ] George Lakoff and Mark Turner give an example of their theory of the mechanics of using extended images, not just as local figures of speech, but to create the large-scale structure of a poem.

The example they use is Emily Dickinson's poem " [http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15395 Because I could not stop for Death] ."cite web |url=http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15395 |title=Because I could not stop for Death |accessdate=2008-01-07 |last=Dickinson |first=Emily |authorlink=Emily Dickinson |publisher=Academy of American Poets]

Lakoff and Turner point out that we have standard metaphors in everyday speech, not especially for poets. One such metaphor, DEATH IS A JOURNEY, uses our idea of “journey,” an example of what Lakoff and Turner call a “schema.” The journey schema has “slots,” or blanks that we fill in. Mandatory slots for the journey schema are for departure point, destination, and traveler. Some optional slots are means of transportation, roadmap, roadblock, and driver or conductor.

DEATH IS A JOURNEY is a commonplace metaphor we construct from the journey schema. The schema even leaves tantalizing blanks we don’t know how to fill: What is the destination? It also suggests questions: Will the person come back? Will we meet them again when we make the same journey?

The structure of Dickinson’s poem is the way she assembles related metaphors that are not completely compatible. She maps different things to the journey schema. In the first line, LIFE IS A JOURNEY but, starting in the second line, DEATH IS A JOURNEY. She couples these two by plugging the moment of death into the “destination” slot of LIFE IS A JOURNEY, but into the “departure point” slot of DEATH IS A JOURNEY. This incompatibility is not to be viewed as a flaw. The ambiguities from multiple metaphors, along with the unanswered questions they create, are regarded as keys to the poem's creation of meaning and to its emotional effect.

The third stanza is complicated by further

* The mention of the children playing recalls again the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor. We travel from childhood to adulthood to old age.
* The mention of the grain suggests the metaphor LIFE IS LIKE THE SEASONS. We start in spring. We grow, then we ripen, then we’re harvested and winter comes.
* The mention of the setting sun suggests the metaphor LIFE IS LIKE A DAY. We start in the morning, then we go through the day, and then evening comes, and finally night falls.

These three metaphors make the same action — life — take place in three different time frames: a day, a year, a lifetime. Dickinson tucks these time scales into the journey of death that’s supposed to be eternal. Thus, in the last stanza, she resolves the poem conclusively in another metaphor: DEATH IS A FINAL DESTINATION.

ee also

*List of basic poetry topics
*Figure of speech
*Stylistic device
*Rhetorical device
*Meter (poetry)
*Literary theory
*History of poetry
*Poetics and Linguistics Association

Notes and references

Further reading

*cite book | last = Ciardi | first = John | title = How Does a Poem Mean? | publisher = The Riverside Press| location = Cambridge, MA | year = 1959
*cite book | last = Drew | first = Elizabeth | title = Discovering Poetry | publisher = W.W. Norton & Company| location = New York | year = 1933
*cite book | last = Hobsbaum | first = Philip | title = Metre, Rhythm, and Verse Form | publisher = Routledge | location = New York | year = 1996 | isbn = 0415122678
*cite book | last = Kinzie | first = Mary | title = A Poet's Guide to Poetry | publisher = University of Chicago Press | location = Chicago | year = 1999 | isbn = 0226437396
*cite book | last = Norman | first = Charles | title = Poets on Poetry | publisher = Collier Books | location = New York | year = 1962 Original texts from 8 English poets before the 20th Century and from 8 20th Century Americans.
*cite book | last = Oliver | first = Mary | title = A Poetry Handbook | publisher = Harcourt Brace & Co | location = New York | year = 1994 | isbn = 0156724006
*cite book | last = Oliver | first = Mary | title = Rules for the Dance | publisher = Houghton Mifflin | location = Boston | year = 1998 | isbn = 039585086x
*cite book | last = Pinsky | first = Robert | title = The Sounds of Poetry | publisher = Farrar, Straus and Giroux | location = New York | year = 1999 | isbn = 0374526176
*cite book | last = Quinn | first = Arthur | title = Figures of Speech | publisher = Lawrence Erlbaum Associates | location = Hillsdale | year = 1993 | isbn = 1880393026

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  • Poetics — Po*et ics, n. [Cf. F. po[ e]tique, L. po[ e]tica, po[ e]tice, Gr. ? (sc. ?.] The principles and rules of the art of poetry. J. Warton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • poetics — [pō et′iks] n. 1. [P ] a famous treatise on poetic drama by Aristotle 2. a) the theory or structure of poetry b) a treatise on this 3. the poetic theory or practice of a specific poet …   English World dictionary

  • poetics — noun plural but singular or plural in construction Date: circa 1741 1. a. a treatise on poetry or aesthetics b. (also poetic) poetic theory or practice; also a particular theory of poetry or sometimes other literary forms < a feminist poetics > 2 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • poetics — /poʊˈɛtɪks/ (say poh etiks) noun 1. literary criticism dealing with the nature and laws of poetry. 2. a treatise on poetry: the Poetics of Aristotle …   Australian-English dictionary

  • poetics — /poh et iks/, n. (used with a sing. v.) 1. literary criticism treating of the nature and laws of poetry. 2. the study of prosody. 3. a treatise on poetry. 4. (cap., italics) a treatise or collection of notes on aesthetics (4th century B.C.) by… …   Universalium

  • poetics — noun The theory of poetry, or of literature in general …   Wiktionary

  • poetics — plural noun [treated as sing.] the art of writing poetry. ↘the study of linguistic techniques in poetry and literature …   English new terms dictionary

  • poetics — po·et·ics …   English syllables

  • poetics — po•et•ics [[t]poʊˈɛt ɪks[/t]] n. (used with a sing. v.) 1) pro literary criticism treating of the nature and laws of poetry 2) pro the study of prosody 3) pro a treatise on poetry • Etymology: 1720–30 …   From formal English to slang

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