I'm continually amused at the way people think conceptually about poetry in general. It's almost a catalogue of misconceptions.
Americans, especially--who seem timid, perhaps even a little afraid of what poetry implies, or might reveal to them about themselves, or the world--frequently have very odd notions about what poetry does, or where it originates, or what its value might be to them.
Much of the confusion comes from early associations. As children, we are frequently read nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes--an old Victorian institution--are intended to catch children's attention, to delight their immature ears with the clanging, clicking congruence of rhythm and rhyme; it's supposed to be easy, and is usually condescending and silly. Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear made "nonsense" poetry popular.
Then there's church or religious poetry--from the Bible, and hymn tunes. Most people raised in religious families first encountered "serious" poetry in church. The Psalms, and the familiar rhetorical poetry of the King James Version.
These typical early exposures to "poetry" put troubling preconceptions into the minds of children from their earliest awareness of language. Has anyone ever given any thought to how powerful these early influences are on our sense of what poetry is, and should be, or could be?
Rhyme, it seems to me, is--if looked at dispassionately and without prejudice--a quite sophomoric and idiotic kind of game. Even when it is done magnificently and joyously by Shakespeare, or Donne, there is a kind of absurdity in end-rhyme. How would we be likely to view it, if we hadn't been indoctrinated, in childhood, with the hoary old warhorses like Winnie the Pooh, or Mother Goose, or A Child's Garden of Verses? The association, in childhood, with bad, puerile verses, probably does more to corrupt our minds about poetry, than anything else.
One often hears people talk about poetry as if it were a "sacred" thing. People will speak in hushed tones, or with reverence about Rumi, or St. John of the Cross, or even Manley Hopkins, as if the fact of their orientation with religious themes somehow made poetry synonymous with religious inspiration. There are certainly good reasons to see any kind of art as faith-inspired, but to presume that all poetry is, or should be, religious is really a dumb idea.
Poetry and song, poetry and performance (theatre), poetry and games, poetry and private meditation, poetry and knowledge (Lucretius)--there are so many other kinds of associations possible. What would happen if we waited until, say, age 17 to read poetry? What would happen if we didn't read "children's" poetry to children? What would happen if we didn't read poetry in church? I've often thought that our responses to poetry might be so much more balanced and rational, if we weren't subjected to the indoctrinations of childhood.
Is is possible to imagine a setting in which such orientations did not occur? Probably futile to imagine it. What would we think of William Carlos Williams, or Thoreau, or Whitman, if we hadn't already, by the time we first read these writers' works, been subjected to the patter of nursury rhymes and church hymns? Might we not find them much more interesting than the tame couplets and quatrains of a hundred tinkering rhymsters? Might not rhyme be viewed--as I believe it ought to be--as a not-very-interesting parlor trick applied to language?