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Poetry is, to paraphrase Justice Harlan on pornography, "not easy to define but I know it when I see it." Poetry is as old as human speech and is a compressed form of speech (and song) in an imaginative manner that at its best evokes and releases human emotions and intuition. Shelley called it "the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds." And, Wordsworth called this "impassioned expression" "the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge."

The History of Poetry

Read The Columbia History of American Poetry


See the list of poets

See also: literature, the short story, theater, and the novel