Did you know April is National Poetry Month?
There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to poetry: those that love poetry and understand it, and those that don’t like it and can’t understand a lick of it.
For those that don’t like it and/or can’t understand it, it may seem like a frivolous and overly prose-y way to express something better said plainly. Or as Jess in Gilmore Girls said, “I can’t get into poetry. It’s kind of like, geez, just say it already, we’re dying here.”
But for those that understand and find beauty in poetry, it can be a wonderful outlet for emotion or thoughts, a catalyst to inspire other creative areas, and it can even be a great form of therapy for some.
For me, poetry was an outlet for the raging hormones of my teenage years: first loves—and the subsequent first broken heart(s), the ups and downs of friendships, the curious and callow way I viewed my world. Poetry was an abstract way to journal through my emotions, and often, it was cathartic being able to safely express the sorrow or rage or euphoria.
As Irene Lantham said, poetry allows us to explore emotional terrain in a safe manner. Says Lantham:
Poetry is compressed emotion. The whole point is to create an emotional experience for yourself…Poetry is the place for the most sustaining and destructive emotions. Your job is to be passionate. This passion is the vehicle that will take you toward your own emotional truths.
While I admit that I have lost a bit of my poetic inclination over the years, I do believe poetry is still very much essential as a craft.
Here are 5 reasons you should write poetry:
- There are no “writing” rules for poetry as there are for other writing forms. With poetry, you have much more freedom to express yourself and your art in a way that is congruent to your deepest need. You don’t need to worry about linear storylines or run-on sentences or “show, don’t tell”—you simply write what is in your heart and mind…whatever the form, whatever the length.
- Poetry is a form of therapy. You give yourself permission to express your story in a way that acts as an outlet, a comfort zone, a healing space. Poetry is a conversation with your deepest self, a monologue that can be both incredibly personal and amazingly exoteric.
- It can act as a catalyst to inspire other creative areas. Whether you write, paint, sculpt, teach, dance, or just live, poetry can inspire creativity in all areas of your life. It can open your mind and your heart to see and feel things outside the boundaries of normal social limitations.
- Poetry fosters understanding and compassion. As an abstract art form, poetry causes us to think differently about our expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It encourages us to think deeper about our communication and how we interact and engage through the language we use.
- Poetry forces us to be brave and confident and invites discovery—of self, of life, of others. As Jane Hirshfield said, “Writing takes down all protections, to see what steps forward. Poetry is a trick of language-legerdemain, in which the writer is both magician and audience. You reach your hand into the hat and surprise yourself with rabbit or memory, with odd verb or slant rhyme or the flashing scarf of an image.”
Whether you understand poetry or not, it is a valuable and rewarding art that is too often underappreciated. And the most beautiful part about poetry is that you don’t even have to like it or understand it—the simple act of witnessing a poem come to life is what gives poetry its validation.