Poetry Facts

Is Poetry Fiction or Nonfiction? A Discussion

Last Updated: October 22, 2022

The question “Is poetry fiction or nonfiction?” is an interesting one because the answer is not obvious. If this is a topic for debate, I’m sure both sides can make a compelling argument. In my opinion, the problem here doesn’t lie in the ambiguity of the answer, but in the question itself.

Is poetry fiction or nonfiction?

This is an interesting question, because one can certainly make a case for both sides of the argument. There are cases where poetry is fiction, and there are cases where poetry is nonfiction.

Sometimes we read a poem and can certainly tell that it’s a work of fiction, especially when it’s about characters that the author made up. Other times, however, poetry can describe real-word events or experiences.

So maybe it’s safe to say that poetry is both fiction and nonfiction?

Not really.

One can say that poetry is neither fiction nor nonfiction, and I wouldn’t necessary disagree.

A poem could be based on a real historical event, but has fictional elements in it. Or if you look at Haiku, a form of poetry that is meant to describe the nature themes. Sure, a Haiku poem may talk about some beautiful forest, but it’s the symbolism that carries the emotional truth, the scenery portrayed is just artifice.

So what’s the answer here?

Maybe trying to answer whether poetry is fiction or nonfiction is like trying to square the circle. Instead, I suggest we look at the question itself and challenge the premise.

Should we even categorize poetry in term of fiction and nonfiction?

According to Poetry Foundation, there are four major genres of literature: poetry, drama, nonfiction, and fiction. That means poetry is a separated genre with fiction and nonfiction! And then, poetry can be divided further into different genres such as epic, lyric, narrative, satirical, etc.

It makes so much more sense than the debate whether poetry is fiction or nonfiction. Normally when discussing poetry, we don’t label them as fiction or nonfiction. Why? Probably because if we do that, it raises the issues that we’ve mentioned in the previous section.

So to answer the question: is poetry fiction or nonfiction?, I think the best answer is this:

Poetry deserves to be a genre in its own right, independent from fiction or nonfiction.


So that’s my opinion on the question: “Is poetry fiction or nonfiction?” I think if you try to categorize poetry that way, no matter whether you put it in the fiction or the nonfiction genre, there will be problems. That’s why poetry is a separated genre from fiction and nonfiction.

What do you think?

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