Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognize it -- it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this -- such as Shelley's that the poets "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," and that poetry is "a higher truth."
In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O'Donoghue provides a fascinating look at the many different forms of writing which have been called "poetry" -- from the Greeks to the present day. As well as questioning what poetry is, he asks what poetry is for, and considers contemporary debates on its value. Is there a universality to poetry? And does it have a duty of public utility and responsibility?