Home » Process writing » Essay: What is poetry? Pre-writing

Essay: What is poetry? Pre-writing

First draft thinking. Very simple. Free flowing.
A sort of poetry to essay formulation: pre-exposition poetics.


Prehistory is what happens before there is a decipherable record of events. What happened in prehistory is largely speculative. There can be some education to the guessing, but absent informants who can explain meaning and origin, we are indeed guessing.

We obviously have language and song and poetry and music. But which came first?

To make sound with the body is instinctive: listen to a baby. (Linguists call it vegetative sound or pre babbling.)
At some point this became words.

Precursors to Language (Pre-linguistic)

0-2 months 2-5 months 4-8 months 6-13 months

reflexive crying and vegetative sounds

cooing and laughter

vocal play

– reduplicated
– non-reduplicated

(Symbolic) Language

12-19 months

14-24 months

20-30 months

28-42 months

34-48 months

48-60 months

Early One Word Stage


Later One Word Stage

Two Word Stage

Three Word Stage

Four Word Stage

Complex Utterance Stage

Fold into this that some believe language was informed by other beings:


The ancients observed the animals closely. Sound and movement. The Bobé spirits. The animal styles of martial arts.

Increasingly, we are tool users. The drumstick. I wonder at which came first: the physical rhythm of percussion – say, drumming – or the bodyrhythm that is syllabication?

A lifetime is an evolution of physicalities. See the second sense:

phys•i•cal |ˈfizikəl|
1 of or relating to the body as opposed to the mind : a whole range of physical and mental challenges.
• involving bodily contact or activity : verbal or physical abuse | football and other physical games.
• sexual : a physical relationship.
2 of or relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete : pleasant physical environments | physical assets such as houses or cars.
• of or relating to physics or the operation of natural forces generally : physical laws.
phys•i•ca•li•ty |ˌfiziˈkalitē| noun

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [medicinal, relating to medicine] ): from medieval Latin physicalis, from Latin physica ‘things relating to nature’ (see physic ). Sense 2 dates from the late 16th cent. and sense 1 from the late 18th cent.

You roll. You crawl.  You stumble. You walk. You run, skip. You catch. You dance. You somersault, tumble. You move a ball with others. You “parkour.”

You reach and point. Your body makes noise. You hear, you imitate. Syllables emerge. You form a word and see effect. A phrase, a clause. You speak sentences and say nursery rhymes. (Already the rhythm is woven in to your speaking.) You sing. You master the body into strong, clear song.

I think the root of poetry is woven in very early. It’s not so much a question of which came first as when was it folded in?
(And if you believe that your culture is in your bones, it is a question of when it happened for your people…)

Sound and movement weave together. Rhythms. Physicality.


Where do you put poetry in this list?

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