The term genre refers to a mode of writing that follows certain literary rules or conventions that have come down to the poet through custom and use. When we say that a poem belongs to a particular genre, we are relating the poem to others of its kind, regardless of who the author is or when the poem was written; we are cutting across boundaries of time, personality, and even nationality. Attempting to place a poem in a particular genre may bring us closer to the meaning or effect intended by the poet, for poets are readers themselves and often draw very deliberately upon inherited conventions. Hence our awareness of these conventions becomes a part of our understanding of the poem. To put this differently, just as a word has connotations, a particular genre has a wealth of associations the poet may use. Further, the consideration of genre—that is, of certain features poems have in common—makes us more sensitive to the ways in which each poet’s achievement is special or unique.
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Robert A. Greenberg
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