Every day, we ask questions about what poetry is. We tend to get a wide range of answers, informed by raw life experiences and imaginative creations derived from these experiences. In Umar Sidi’s poem, “The Peninsula of Poets II“, he calls the poet “a craze man”, which is a perfect symbolic definition. Poetry involves the wildness of thoughts, feelings and creativity.
Poetry as an expression of emotions
The simplest definition of poetry is that it is an overflow of emotions. Although, like literature, the definition of poetry is unending. Some say it is wisdom, some say it is divine possession, some say it is an imitation of the ethereal and not the physical, and some see poetry as unholy. Aristotle defines it as a ‘medium of imitation’. He emphasises this definition by explaining that poetry seeks to represent and duplicate existence or life through emotions, actions, humans, nature etc. thus, his view of poetry is analytic and empirical. Poetry, to Aristotle, is derived from basic human instinct. Unlike Aristotle, Plato and Socrates reject the physical world. Socrates affirms that poetry derives from inspiration rather than wisdom, thus believing that poetry imitates the transcendental. In his words, “the poet himself is in a state of ‘divine possession’ and speaks not of his voice, which is merely a medium through which gods speaks.”
We also see so many other definitions from contemporary scholars and poets. Whether we are conscious of it, poetry can not be separated from any individual human; this is confirmed by Dami Ajayi’s words, “There is a poet in all of us”. He also states that “The poet unburdens for the entire human race.” As poets speak the truth and pour out their emotions, they strive to right the wrongs in society and put in place emotions by conversing with their travails. Lovers of poetry do not just like poetry because of its aesthetic use of language. Their likeness to poetry involves the ability of the poet to communicate with their thoughts, their struggles, their love etc.
Vocalising experiences through poetry
Humans and specifically Africans, have always seen poetry as capable of salvation. We see how enslaved people use poetry to communicate their ordeals when looking back at history. From poetry, they created speeches that gave them resounding voices.
We see poetry in music even more recently, which is a major form of humanity’s expression of experience. The likes of 2pac were the first a poet before shifting poetic form into what is often called rap, which is defined as poetry and rhythm. We experience his story in every one of his rap songs.
Beyond music, we see poetry in sports. The likes of Mohammad Ali, a fierce fighter who never shies away from poetic speeches which sound as terrifying as they sound romantic.
The common ground: introducing the Poetry Experience podcast
Poetry is an experience. It is relational with existence. These experiences are usually open to many interpretations from readers, but the poet has their trigger and motivation to write a poem.
Just as life has different experiences, definitions and interpretations, so does poetry which is ultimately a reflection of life. The experiences that prompt poets to write are always relatable, be it anger, happiness, love, sadness, disappointment, wishes, nature etc. While these experiences might be generally relatable, and while each poetry piece can be interpreted subjectively, only the poet can tell the underlying experience captured in a piece of poetry.
Thus, The Moveee introduces the Poetry Experience, a new podcast featuring notable poets reciting and talking about some of their already published poems. They will be discussing the themes, the creative process, the inspiration, and the personal connection between the particular poem and themselves.
In each episode, poets from Africa and beyond, both the established and the emerging, will be answering the questions of “how, why and when” behind their works.
This podcast is an attempt to bring new life to poems that you already enjoy, taking you deeper into the mind of the creator through brief personal narrations and distinctive voiceovers. It’s like listening to Maya Angelou answering questions about and reading Still I Rise, Nikki Giovanni reading Ego Tripping, or Audre Lorde reading Coal.
The Poetry Experience is distributed through Anchor and available on Spotify, Google Podcast, Apple Podcast, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts.