prose=storytelling. Storytelling is talking about something that happened, in any number of ways.
poetry=language sex. Language sex is when you take a language, say English, and wrap it around yourself like a putty lover and you yourself are made from putty and you two become one and you decide to take a look at the world with your ears made of English and your eyes made of English and your tongue not coated in but actually English, and you create something markedly removed from prose, where the average writer is just talking about how something looks or sounds--you're not describing a damn thing. You're telling us what it is if all its
double-helices were letters and line breaks and grammar.
At least great poets do that, most of the time. I think Murakami said it best when he said...and this isn't a quote because I don't own the book...that poetry needs to create a metaphysical tunnel from itself to the reader's mind. Something for the language to pour through and muck up the rest of your mind with its linguistic beauty. If he succeeds, the poem should lose a good deal in translation. I've always wondered what reading Shakespeare in a non-European language must be like. Probably like reading a good story, but almost certainly not like reading Shakespeare.
Of course we're in the age now where everyone's doing everything, so the definition above is defunct, at least in practice. But I think even up to 50 years ago that's what people were aiming for, and I think they should still be aiming for that, at least in terms of everyday short poems.
Anyways, Beckett and Eliot wrote some cool things about poetry that I've read in the last few days and I think you should read it:
Beckett said, in his essay "Dante...Bruno. Vico..Joyce."
Poetry is essentially the antithesis of Metaphysics: Metaphysics purge the mind of the senses and cultivate the disembodiment of the spiritual; Poetry is all passion and feeling and animates the inanimate; Metaphysics are most perfect when most concerned with universals; Poetry, when most concerned with particulars. Poets are the sense, philosophers the intelligence of humanity. Considering the Scholastics' axiom: "niente 'e nell'intelletto che prima non sia nel senso" it follows that poetry is a prime condition of philosophy and civilization. The primitive animistic movement was a manifestation of the "forma poetica dello spirito."The s.o.b. didn't bother to translate the Italian becaus he thought everybody forever should be privy to such education if they were to considered truely worthy of reading his shite, but I remember enough of the language to make due: "nothing is in the intellect which didn't first come from the senses" and "the poetic form of the spirit."
And Eliot, in his essay "Milton I", in comparing Shakespeare and Milton, said
At no point is visual imagination conspicuous in Milton's poetry. It would be as well to have a few illustrations of what I mean by visual imagination. [He does a passage from Macbeth that I don't care to write, and then this one:]
Light thickens, and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood.
not only offer[s] something to the eye, but, so to speak, to the common sense. I mean they convey the feelings of a being at a particular place at a particular time. ... With Shakespeare...the combinations of words offer perpetual novelty; they enlarge the meaning of the individual words joined... In comparison, Milton's images do not give this sense of particularity, nor are the separate words developed in significance. His language is, if one may use the term without disparagement, artificial and conventional.
O'er the smooth enamel'd green...
...paths of this drear wood
The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger.
He goes onto suggest that Milton writes English like a dead language. I'm not sure. Never read the guy. But I'd like to. And Eliot's a fucking smart guy.