Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why Read Poetry?

Most of the people I bother talking to are readers. Honestly, I have a hard time relating to people who aren't. But even among my reader-friends, very few seem to read poetry.

For a lot of folks, this stems from a negative experience in their schooling, a time when they were asked to read a poem written in archaic language and somehow pull out of it the esoteric thing the teacher wanted. It gives people the impression that poetry is difficult, purposefully obtuse, and assuredly not for them. Experiences like that make a person feel stupid or resentful, which can turn them off an entire art form, which is a shame, since poetry can be a light in the darkness.

Appreciating poetry, moreso than other types of writing, does lend itself to discussion of technique, style, and the tools used to convey the feelings, establish tone, and elicit emotional response. Much like visual art, though, none of that is a requirement. You don't have to understand fully everything an artist (or poet) is doing to feel something about a piece (or poem).

So, here's a few reasons why I read poetry, and think that you should, too:

1. Brevity: Even a long poem is far shorter than a short story, novella, novel, or even some blog posts. You can fit a bit of art into your day with only a few minutes for reading.

2.  Me Too!: Poetry is often intensely personal, a person laying bare the happenings and feelings of their lives for all to see. But it is also intensely universal. When a poem really speaks to me it's usually because I feel a resonance with the experience or feelings captured in the verse. It can be such a relief and a comfort to find that someone else thinks or feels what you do, and enlightening to find it expressed more articulately than you might be able to do for yourself.

3. Word Nerd: I'm in love with language. A beautiful turn of phrase or unusual description can set my head spinning in the most lovely way, like being expertly kissed on the dance floor.

4. A New Way of Thinking: Poets describe things differently than other writers (though the best of prose writing pulls from poetic imagery as well). So many poems have opened my eyes in a new way, had me thinking of something differently than I ever have before.

I'll be writing about 26 of my favorite poets and their work in April. My all-time favorite poet is Emily Dickinson. Do you have one? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. 


  1. You are not alone in your love of poetry.

    In fact, I am "re-discovering" poetry as my cognitive abilities decline - although my brain can't seem to handle a book or even a short story, it can deal with a poem or three. It makes me happy that I can get my "word-fix" with poetry. And who knows? Maybe I'll start writing a few again!

    1. Yay! Poetry is concentrated language for certain, and I'm glad you can get a word fix that way even when your brain isn't cooperating. I'd love to see poetry from you if you start to write it again!