What is a poem?

What makes a piece of work a poem versus prose? One of my five-year-old students asked this recently after completing a poem of her own, and even after discussing the question at length all throughout my Poetry Concentration in uni, I didn’t have an answer for her. We talked about different ways that you can communicate, and the rules that apply to one form of writing versus another. Usually it looks different, but not always! Sometimes it rhymes or has a set rhythmic structure or meter, but certainly not always! Her mother told me that in their Japanese cultural understanding, a piece of writing is a poem or not based on the line breaks, I believe. (Very interested in learning more about this, having a hard time finding resources.) What is your understanding of what makes a poem a poem? If the writer calls it a poem, does that make it so, regardless of what it appears to someone else? Or are there particular criteria one must adhere to? Are there, perhaps, a set of a bunch of different sufficient but not necessary criteria, and one must fit at least one or two of them?

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