The Importance of Poetry

In recognition of April being National Poetry Month, since 1996.

Over the last few months, I’ve been setting aside time to read a few lines of poetry every day. Its difficult to explain, but somehow it lessens the weight of the burdens I carry. The noise around me turns to stillness, and my soul is renewed in those quiet moments.

Though I am reluctant to confess, I will admit there was a time when I thought poetry was very dull. Attempting to understand the meaning behind the riddles seemed difficult and tedious. They contained rhymes, but I could see no reason – and this left me with little enjoyment.

Foolishly, I concluded romantic verse had no place in the life of a realist. It was no small task for me to learn I was completely mistaken. For those of you who find poetry a little lackluster, consider this a modest attempt to persuade you otherwise.

Bright Star

The first time poetry found its way inside me, it was a rainy afternoon, and I was watching the Jane Campion film Bright Star. Originally, the film caught my attention by appealing to my weakness for brilliant cinematography. Viewing the events of John Keats life unfold, I fell captive to his haunting words, and the tragic inner landscape they revealed.

Months later, my college professor assigned an essay on poetry, and I chose Ode to a Nightingale. During the weeks spent trying to muddle through the assignment, I finally reached the point of understanding what had always escaped me before.

For a moment, his soul was laid bare for me to examine. With a few lines of poetic verse, Keats had disclosed the intricate details of his despair and longing. And through his transparency, somehow a part of myself was also revealed.

“Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”
– Bright Star

If you are looking to solve riddles, then you will miss seeing the value of poetry. It is not meant to be understood perfectly. It is something beyond reason. Only the poets among us may perceive language where we thought there was none.

In the rhythmic sound of a heart beating, they hear words and sentences. Instead of questioning what they find, they recognize some things are felt deeply without being explained. When we cease to try and unravel the complexity of humanity, we give ourselves permission to accept the mystery pulsing through our veins.

The importance of poetry is that it allows us to feel the intensity of our deepest agony and our highest ecstasy. Every passion which once seemed inexpressible, suddenly finds words and meaning. By reading poetry, we uncover the secrets carved in our being.

Whether or not I’ve become a romantic, I leave for you to decide.

“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold,
ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread
in the pockets of the hungry.”
– Mary Oliver

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