I asked my AS Level class, “What is literature?”
One by one, students came and wrote on the board what they thought.
‘The study of a language.’
‘The study of poetry and drama.’
‘The study of a language, poetry, prose and drama.’
“What about a diary or travelogue?” I hinted.
‘Anything that is written.’
“What about a story passed down from my grandmother? Is that literature?”
‘Anything that has grammar/ words.’
Eventually, we came to the next question, “What is poetry?”
“Something with lines that rhyme,” suggested one student.
“Does it have to rhyme?” I asked.
“No… Okay, so something that has a set rhythm,” said another.
“What about blank verse?” I asked.
“Something that has a deep meaning about nature.”
“What about a nursery rhyme or a song?” I asked.
“Something that has a deep meaning,” insisted one student.
“Something that means something,” corrected another student.
And finally, the class settled on that and submitted it to me as their definition of poetry – something that means something.