Poetry, or words talking

Dear Readers, I could really use your help with this.

What makes a poem a poem? Instead of prose with line breaks.

The poetry universe is huge, and ever-expanding, with room for all kinds of poems.

But sometimes I’m not convinced. I’m reading–or writing–a poem, and it feels more like words talking.

Line breaks offer such power. Judith Skillman has a new book coming out called Broken Lines: The Art & Craft of Poetry, which I’m excited about. I look forward to learning more about how those line breaks can add tension and momentum. It will probably include answers to some of these other questions, too.

But in the meantime, today I’m asking about the words between the breaks.

Is it imagery? Syntax? Simile and metaphor–or extended metaphor?

It can be music, but it doesn’t have to be.

Formal poetry suffers no identity crisis. Post-modern lyric poetry might shout POEM from the page. But what about the many other poems?

Is it poemography–like pornography, you know it when you see (read, hear) it?

Mostly I ask because I’ve been coming up against this in some of my new drafts–the grief poems and the measurement poems. They have something to say, but I worry it’s too pedestrian (not slant enough?).

How do you know it’s a poem?