Poetry may be the oldest form of fine art in the world, with some experts even stating that the first poems came before the invention of writing. Since its early beginnings, poetry has been in constant evolution, changing to meet the current literary needs of the time and often acting as a mirror to how a society operates. With poetry having such a long and dynamic history, anyone that is interested in literature will need to have a thorough understanding of how poetry works and how it has been used throughout human history as both a means to tell a story and as a deeper reflection of what it means to be human.
As a literary function, the main difference between poetry and prose is the manner of how the text is presented, including the language that is used it its creation. The oldest forms were often written as narratives and used a large degree of symbolism and aesthetic coloration. While the majority of poems do feature some type of rhyme scheme, this is not a necessary rule for a work to be considered a poem and there are several distinct types of poems that are defined by their lack of rhyme. In addition to rhyme, there are also some other factors that inform the structure of a poem.
The poetic structure is often a combination of many different things. As previously mentioned, rhyme can be one of the aspects of the structure, but other aspects can include repetition and verse form. In early forms of poetry, there was a large emphasis on the verse form, with standardized forms being the most popular poems. Even as literature gained in popularity, many poems retained a certain form, such as a sonnet or haiku. In addition, many poems feature repetition as a way of keeping the proper structure. One example of repetition would be a poem that repeats an important line at certain intervals throughout the lyric. This serves to bring the reader back to the point of the poem after a tangent has been explored.
Modern poetry has largely lost the large degree of form that was once employed. Current poets still use form in some cases, but the majority of literary poetry that is being written utilizes a free verse form that experiments with the role of rhythm and does not follow a particular structure or style. In fact, the modern description of poetry has a wider net than previous versions. With more freedom in the structure, poetry has expanded to include many other disciplines, especially music and even prose forms of writing. Because poetry is based as a reflection of the modern experience, it is expected that new ways will be discovered to transmit meaning through words, thus giving even more possibility to the world of poetry.