Poetry has been around for thousands of years as a way of recording and expressing human experience through language. Simple rhyming and rhythmical verses are some of the first words we learn.
Prehistoric Poems. The oldest poetry wasn’t written down at all. People told stories, made up or based on historical events, as poems, often very long ones. The words were remembered and passed on from generation to generation.
The earliest written poems might well have been spoken aloud for centuries before they were written down.The oldest surviving poem we know about is the Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s from ancient Sumer, modern-day Iraq, and the earliest version dates from around 2000 BC. The poem is supposed to be about a real king, Gilgamesh of Uruk. Gilgamesh probably did exist, and reigned round about 2500 BC, but the things that happened to him in the poem are a little unlikely.
The ancient Greek epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are by a poet called Homer, though no one knows if he really existed. They were eventually written down around 700 BC.
The Iliad tells the story of the war between the Greeks and Trojans, and the Odyssey is about Odysseus, a Greek hero, and his long journey home from the war. Like Gilgamesh, the subject of the poems have some basis in reality; the one-eyed giants, singing mermaids and sea monsters were probably all made up though.
The world’s longest poem is the Mahabharata, an Indian epic poem sacred to the Hindu religion. It’s about 1.8 million words long. One of the shortest poems in the world is by Charles Ghigna, called ‘I’, and it goes: Why?
A limerick tells a funny short story in 5 lines, rhyming a a b b a. The a-lines have 3 beats and the b-lines, 2 beats. They usually start something like: ‘There was a young lady/fellow called/from
THE VIEW FROM MY WINDOW
A HAPPY MEMORY
An acrostic poem can be any length, rhyming or non-rhyming, but the first letter of each line can be read down, spelling out a word or
message relating to the poem.
A haiku consists of three unrhyming lines. The first and third lines must have five syllables, and the second line seven syllables.