Webster’s Dictionary defines a poem as “a style more imaginative than ordinary speech.” This could be anything from street talk dialect to a royal decree or a definition in contracts, politics, news or in the dialogue of conversation. Almost any use of language can be enhanced for here is where the root of poetry takes hold. Its form may take on a graceful and intelligent tone when the speaker is familiar with his medium. A writer may indeed be imaginative with a bright vocabulary and new ideas but what counts is being persuasive and using the language accurately. We are distracted if anyone were to say, “I’ve took a job” instead of simply having taken one. We often hear “We had went” or even more frequently, “Him and I were friends.” Or “We was in trouble.” Then we only get patois.
A difficulty in learning English is the variety of pronouns, the changes in spelling that a verb may take along with the pronouns, as well as the plural and singular forms of words. The categories of the tenses themselves are very rarely explained in school. We have the brief reference to “the past” or to “the future” but this writer never even heard the term, “perfect, the “pluperfect” or the “future perfect.” He didn’t see examples of these until he had glanced (speaking of the pluperfect) at the very last pages of his textbook when he had already graduated high school and was about to go to college.
It is when grammar is used well that we get clarity in our native tongue. It is this clarity that begins to move us into the realm of poetry. If we can trust the poet’s handling of his words we can begin to hear what his poem is trying to say. However, it is a common idea that in poetry we can skip the rules because we are being imaginative when, instead, we are spewing confusion because the writer is cheating by taking the easy way out. The reader’s attention expects an educated voice but he is, instead, only distracted not by imagination or originality but by the bad poetry, or careless prose, we have been given instead.