Drawing upon research undertaken for a project that explored the cultural value of poetry in lifelong learning, we argue for the renewal of a specifically educational understanding of poetry as a language art. In a context of increasingly instrumental approaches to the uses of poetry in educational settings, late twentieth-century discussions and perspectives on the relationship between poetry (as a distinct language art and distinctive mode of language use), experience and learning are examined in order to argue for the importance of poetry as poetry in education. Differences between poetry and other language arts such as literary prose and rhetoric are explored in an attempt to seek conceptual clarity about poetry as a mode of language use. The work of British educationist James Britton, in particular, is seen as important in this regard and his synthesis of intellectual resources from philosophy, psychology, and literary studies. We conclude by arguing that the distinctiveness of poetry and the essence of its utility in education arises from its self-conscious effort to draw attention to its symbolic nature and that poetry as poetry meets a deeply human need to symbolize.