Since it is officially Tuesday, January 31st somewhere, I’m going to go ahead and publish this post now. I accidentally scheduled two posts to go up on the 31st, so I apologize in advance if you had any difficulty finding your way here! For this first month of the Read More/Blog More Poetry Event, I wanted to share with you why poetry is so important to me.
I found a love of poetry the way most high schoolers do: by writing it. Yes, my high school poems were angsty. I’m the first to admit that. They were often about who didn’t ask me to Junior Prom and family drama and all sorts of things that I’d probably be embarrassed to share with you now. Each year that I wrote poetry, from age 13 on, I also read more poetry. I read more poetry by other teenagers who were writing it, I read more classic poetry, I read more contemporary poetry. I was obsessed with it, and I still am, though perhaps not as fervently as I was in high school.
In a lot of ways, it’s difficult to explain what about poetry makes me so obsessed. There is, of course, the use of the English language in unexpected and clever ways. That is certainly part of it. There are the poems that describe something in a way you’ve never thought of before. I do enjoy that. Then there are the poems that tell a story and I love those as well. None of that, though, really describes what it is about poetry that I love so much.
It’s hard to get into a discussion of poetry without falling into the trap of comparing it to other forms of literature. Poetry is not like a short story and it is not like a novel. It is the concentration of story, language, mood, theme into a small package. Let’s forget about epic poems right now and just think of poetry being everything that a novel or short story is in only a few lines. There are whole stories behind poems, but the poet only lets us glimpse this tiny peek. How much of the whole story we are able to glean from those sparse words is totally up to us and what the poet will let us see.
More than anything, poetry has always been a kind of therapy for me. Reading it, sharing it, writing it has meant a lot to me over the years, through moments of great happiness and sorrow. Reading poetry can often be like recognizing yourself in a character in novel, but instead between the lines of a poem. It’s a way to feel like you are part of something.
Poetry can be beautiful, it can be bad, it can be life-changing. If anything I hope this project will bring people who are already avid readers of poetry closer to the poems they read and I hope it will bring those who are trying to read more poetry the same kind of life-changing connection that reading an amazing book can.