Today I introduced poetry to my English 101 students. I walked in, asked "What is Poetry?" and we went from there. The first student who spoke said "boring," so okay, we started with that. What makes it boring, etc. What we finally got to, in terms of definition, happened about 2/3 of the way through class, after we'd read Mary Ruefel's "Kiss of the Sun,"* when a student blurted out: "Poetry is saying something that needs to be said!" I loved that definition. It seemed as good as any, and much better than that quote from Wordsworth about recollection in tranquility, though I do like the best words in the best order.
*"Kiss of the Sun"
If, as they say, poetry is a sign of something
among people, then let this be prearranged now,
between us, while we are still peoples: that
at the end of time, which is also the end of poetry
(and wheat and evil and insects and love),
when the entire human race gathers in the flesh,
reconstituted down to the infant's tiniest fold
and littlest nail, I will be standing at the edge
of that fathomless crowd with an orange for you,
reconstituted down to its innermost seed protected
by white thread, in case you are thirsty, which
does not at this time seem like such a wild guess,
and though there will be no poetry between us then,
at the end of time, the geese all gone with the seas,
I hope you will take it, and remember on earth
I did not know how to touch it it was all so raw,
and if by chance there is no edge to the crowd
or anything else so that I am of it,
I will take the orange and toss it as high as I can.
-- Mary Ruefle