why poetry matters

Sometimes people like to horrify me by saying they don’t like poetry.  When I respond, I try to school my facial expression into the accepting smile of Oprah on a good day.

Hey, kids, it's all good.  I accept you as you are.
Hey, kids, it’s all good. I accept you as you are.

Mostly, though, I’m baffled.

Poetry defines a vast stretch of the written word.  Sometimes it’s meant to rhyme, sometimes it’s meant to be spoken, sometimes it tackles serious issues, and sometimes it delves into nothing more important than the lack of passes at girls who wear glasses.

Poetry is everywhere.  It’s the heart of the song that you say is the heart of you.  It’s the lyrical meanderings of a hobbit named Bilbo, and the stark call to arms of a soap maker named Tyler.  It is the title of a painting that moves you to tears and the inscription on your wedding ring.  It is folded gently into our holiest of books and our most precious of lullabies.

At this point in my thoughts, I start to notice that my facial expression has fallen from loving peacefulness and morphed into something that looks more like the start of a pretty decent meme.

WHAT are you TALKING about??!
WHAT are you TALKING about??!

How, in the face of all of that substance and variety, could you say that you don’t like poetry?

It’s like saying you don’t like eating, because once someone made you eat something you didn’t like.  It’s like saying you don’t like playing indoor games, because you have a particular problem with Monopoly.  It’s like saying you don’t like clouds, because — what have they done for you lately?

Not all poetry will be presented in its best light.  Not all poetry is worth the fame it has garnered.  Not all poetry will touch your heart, or impress you.

But those are tiny blemishes on an art form that ties all art together.

Still, I try to make peace with it.  Not everybody likes everything.  Someone like me, who rarely participates in popular interests, should be more than normally gracious about that truth.

In the center of my stillness, there is balance.
In the center of my stillness, there is balance.  In the center of my balance, there is a pink plastic flamingo standing on one leg.  He loves everyone.  He is in complete control of the world, because he is in control of nothing but himself.

Opinions aside, though, there are a lot of reasons why poetry matters.

It creates passionate readers, connected humans, fearless writers, and effective communicators via the teaching of incredibly important skills.  Each of these could be full courses in their own right, and there are many more wonders to poetry, but for now I’ll just summarize the ones I most value.

1.  How to control empty space and pauses.

Fine art makes quite a fuss over the effective use of white space, and it’s no less important in writing.  Not everyone reads the same.  It’s the obligation of the writer to show the reader when to pause, hesitate, stop, breathe, or process.  Whether you choose to guide this by word choice, punctuation, or emphasis, the reading and writing of poetry will help you hone that skill.

2.  How to be vulnerable.

In most poetry, you don’t have the luxury of paragraphs of text to build to an implication.  You have to delve behind the facade of your topic and be bluntly truthful with your vulnerability.  It shines through and people respond.  It can be uncomfortable, but that’s a good thing.  Effective communication, writing, or reading should make you shudder, giggle, cringe, cry, zone out, or scream.

3.  How to be flexible and fearless.

Yes, there’s a right way to use a comma, but it’s important to remember that — academically speaking– some of the most touching pieces of literature of all time would barely receive a passing grade.  Communicating hinges on flexibility.  If you need a phrase that doesn’t exist, coin one.  If you need an analogy outside the bounds of normal thought, stretch for it.  If you want a sentence littered with punctuation, write one– but if it could be more effective without  punctuation, forsake it.  Flexible writing establishes voice and attracts a wider readership, and nothing teaches that better than the freedom of poetry.

4. How to master your shape.

Form matters.  In this age of blogs and e-books, form matters more than ever.  Whether a new paragraph starts on the first sentence, or the fifth, matters.  Whether your title gives away the story or not matters.  Every single word matters.  Poetry teaches control in a way no other writing will.

5. How to lead into your boom-shish.

You know when a comedian tells a joke and the drummer makes that boom-shish sound?  Writing should do that, too.  Poetry teaches how to lead into that boom-shish, beginning with the title and trailing all the way down to the final word.

***

Poetry is a pink, one-legged flamingo balancing in the center of a wobbly world.  It’s all about absurdity and zen, the simple and the exotic.  It is about control– of the writer and the reader– and it is about total, absolute freedom of thought and feeling.

Do you have to like it?  Of course not.

But does it matter?

Yes.

_______________________________________________________________________

What has poetry taught you?  Are you one of those non-poetry people? It’s alright to admit it, I’ll love you anyway.

I’m not usually so Oprah-centric, since I’ve only ever seen a handful of her shows– but I stumbled across a picture of her today that made me think we’re more alike than I knew:

Rawr!
Rawr! Says the Oprahsaurus Rex!

138 Comments

    1. 😀 That’s a great response. Music, in general, is just poetry set to notes– no matter what type you listen to, as long as it has words, you listen to poetry. 🙂

      Thank you! 😀

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      1. Yeah, I agree. I have books and books of poetry that I have always called “songs” because, even though I don’t have the know-how to write music, they are written with refrains and meant to be set to music…that, and it’s cooler than saying I wrote “poetry” a lot. 😉

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      2. As someone with a life-long severe hearing deficiency, I’m here to tell you that music, for me, is not poetry set to notes. At least not in the sense I think you mean it: as a text with a melody. As a musician, the notes themselves are “poetry” to me, but I’ve never had good access to song lyrics, so music (to me) has never been about the words; it’s always been about the melody and rhythm.

        Rap, of course, is almost entirely poetry. HBO had a series, Russell Simmons Def Comedy Jam that, for a while, was the Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam. Both featured up and coming young artists from the fringes along with some more successful artists. I remember the Poet Laureate of New York state offering “An Ode to my Ass (Reflected in a Mirror)” on the Poetry Jam, but mostly it was rap unconfined by any musical association.

        Music, I think, is a separate dimension from poetry. There are song lyrics that sound pretty lame without the music, and a great deal of poetry that wouldn’t sound good sung (or at least is in no need of music… For one example, Pablo Neruda’s stuff, to me, sings on its own. And I think there is a rhythm to poetry that is irregular (hence non-musical). When poetry is too regular rhythmically, it tends to play as doggerel or child-verse or (lowest of the low) … limericks! 🙂

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    1. It all depends what you’re comparing it to. Ella Wheeler Wilcox or Shel Silverstein could be read as lightly as any light prose… of course, there are other poems like Keats and Shakespeare that require a little more mental energy. I think a lot of people’s fear of poetry comes from being forced to read the tougher stuff in their youth… 🙂

      I’m off to check out your recommended post now. 🙂

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  1. I think often when people say they don’t like poetry, it’s because they haven’t discovered a genre they like, it’s basically the lyrics to a song.

    As suzie81 said, it’s kinda like rap and to be honest, I do admire Eminem for his ability to craft a song / poem.

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    1. Yes, there are countless genres to poetry! I happen to be in a small piece of pie that loves most, if not all, genres… but most people would like at least one style, you would think. Who knows though? 🙂

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  2. Iiiiiii hate to be that guy, but I don’t particularly like poetry.

    Especially Keats. Man was too fond of dragging out the old rhyming dictionary (try his Isabella/pot of basil one, for example). Then again season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is bon.

    I always want the immediate (emotional) impact, or a sense of wit. Poetry I suppose is like music – if it speaks to you it just does and you can never really quite explain it, and if it doesn’t it leaves you cold. And I don’t think that lyrics are the same thing as poems – some might be (Leonard Cohen), but they serve slightly different demands.

    That being said there are exceptions (for me): thinking about John Cooper Clark (let me be your vacuum cleaner). And John Agard’s Half-Caste also springs to mind.

    Also, Sir John Betjeman (come friendly bombs and fall on Slough/it isn’t fit for humans now…) and my favourite ever poem is by Spike Milligan. It goes:

    There are holes in the sky
    Where the rain gets in
    But the holes are small
    That’s why rain is thin

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    1. Haha, no worries on being “that guy”, 😉 Actually, I’m going to say that the vast majority of Rarasaur-readers are non-poetry people, so you’re in good company. 🙂

      Keats is a difficult pill to swallow, I admit, which is why I’m always so frustrated by teacher’s desires to teach him first. 🙂 There’s far more poets unlike Keats, who reach unique emotional depths, than there are people like him. So, when people say they don’t like poetry because they don’t like Keats… that’s just a tiny sample of poetry. 🙂 There’s so much more out there.

      The Spike Milligan poem is beautiful and amazing, 🙂 thank you for sharing it. I had never heard it before.

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    2. Oh yeah, John Agard! I got to see him perform Half-Caste and several others of his poems, including one about wanting an encyclopedia for love and making out in the library when I was doing my GCSEs – he was absolutely fantastic! He also does a lot of work teaching poetry to Inner London kids which is cool.

      Rara, I agree with what you said about teaching the hard stuff in school. It was also the problem of having a set syllabus and analysing a handful of poems to death without being given the chance to find stuff that speaks to you personally.

      My turn-around on poetry happened a couple of years ago when I found a free poetry anthology that was the product of a community programme working with drug-addicts and ex-cons,and it absolutely amazing. Not all good, but a lot that either caught my feelings or got stuck inside my head, or made me stop and think.

      Bilbo, though, and LotR in general, I skipped a LOT of the poetry because gosh, did Tolkein like to ramble!

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  3. Poetry rocks my world, even bad poetry. Perhaps not Billy Corgan’s ‘Blinking With Fists’, that I could have done without, but in general, poetry is everything.

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  4. Nice post about poetry, which I love.
    But, since you brought up the Big O
    I never thought I’d agree with Bill O’Reilly. He definitely has his own agenda.
    But like they say ‘it takes one to know one’. Reality check….this is all showbiz, my friend! O’Reilly and Oprah are on the top of the heap and masters of their craft. If you look at the original E Tonight clip

    you can see how she segued from her movie to this incident. THIS WAS ALL SCRIPTED AND PLANNED. Sorry for the caps.

    Now, Flip to the present and watch how she distances herself from this incident, but all the time STILL getting press and publicity for herself and her movie. If ever you get time check Oprah’s endorsement of quack faith healer john of god of brazil. This guy cures cancers by an old carny trick of sticking forceps up your nose and was thoroughly debunked by James Randi and American Cancer Society. But, watch Oprah’s act of believing and endorsing this as new age medicine. Priceless, now she’s doing the same act with a different show!

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    1. Yay for poetry! 😀 As for Oprah, I seriously don’t know much more about her other than (1) she had (has?) a show, (2) she sometimes acts, (3) she owns a network, (4) she’s really rich and famous, (5) she recommends mediocre books often. But all your points sound valid and well made and I’m inclined to agree with you even though I don’t know anything about any of that, haha. 😀

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  5. I am a non-poetry person. Or I thought I was until you reminded me how all-inclusive poetry is. I listen to and remember song lyrics, for example.

    Most of the poetry I’ve seen is “purge-poetry” or “get it out of my system and onto you” poetry. And sometimes I just want to know what the author is talking about in plain terms. Poetry takes time to digest. I don’t always have time to really read it fully, which makes it much more difficult to understand.

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    1. That makes sense, though there is a lot of pretty straight forward poetry out there. It’s maybe not the most famous, but it’s probably the majority of poetry out there. 😀 And no worries, proclaimed poetry lover or not, I still love you, 🙂

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  6. Not everyone is a creative type or can appreciate poetry as an art form. Of course, the same people also tend to bore the hell out of me. I don’t have a high tolerance level for ignorance. It’s fine not to like something, just don’t be ignorant about it.

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    1. I think more often it’s trauma, not ignorance. There’s a lot of pressure put on people to “understand” poetry– and most people are exposed only to the appropriate, classicists… it’s an unintentional warp in their knowledge spectrum. 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts on this, and for reading! 😀

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      1. As a person who’s never be a fan of that which is “inside the box”, I think it’s safe to say that many people just don’t care. The education system exposes them to only certain things, and unless they expand it on their own, they may or may not come away with an appreciation or respect for it. I have a different background in life and I grew up with a lot of culture, so for me, poetry is an art form, if done right. But really, who’s to say what’s right and what isn’t? We’re all different and like different things for a reason.

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  7. Poetry is like you say the essence of life
    It stretches our imagination
    It creates word pictures for us to bask in
    We would so less without it.
    It is all mention above
    Everyone connects in some way either through written or sung verse
    It makes us who we are.

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  8. I like poetry although I do not pretend to always understand each poem that I read—but yes—-poetry is music, isn’t it? Oprahsaurus Rex made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

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    1. 😀 Haha, yay, glad you liked ORex, 🙂 I don’t understand every poem, or every story, or even every blog post that I read– but the ones I love, I love with all my heart. 😀

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  9. I used to not like poetry but that was because everything I was forced to read in school was so confusing to me. I didn’t ‘get’ it. Then, I discovered all these different types of poetry that didn’t cause me to have a brain aneurysm while reading them. It took me a while but I got to a point where I love it!

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    1. I had a mix of ordinary and extraordinary teachers and syllabi in school, which made me a little more open to poetry than most people. I had friends, though, who really suffered through the classes and can’t stand the word poetry to this day. 🙂 It’s a beautiful thing, though, once you learn to not stress out about it. 😀

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    1. I love writing poetry. I feel like the restriction of form really helps sort my thoughts out. Still, my writing of it is mediocre, usually, so I much much much prefer to read all the wonderful work that gets churned out. The blogosphere has a ton of fabulous poets because of all the real life passion that goes into their work. I also like reading up on poetry competitions and checking out the poets who submit… it helps me keep tabs on new, awesome poets. 🙂

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  10. Poetry was the first writing I did. Now, I love other people’s poetry. Every once in a while I get a tickle to write it though I’m not really good at it. But truly, what’s not to like?

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    1. I feel the same about the writing of it– it’s enjoyable, though it’s not my particular forte. I enjoy reading it, though, all the time in any style. 🙂

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    1. I’m sure you’re not since you’re such a fabulous writer… but, if you are, it’s probably just a matter of practice. 🙂 I find that the trifecta weekend challenges are great opportunities to hone poetry skills.

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  11. I had a bad experience with poetry in HS. Trying to decipher & interpret poems of the well knowns. Then – one day – like magic – a light-bulb went off & I realized what poetry really was. It’s all good now 🙂

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  12. I love poetry. In fact the word love is not strong enough to describe how I feel about it. Almost every day I will read a piece of poetry and just for that moment lose myself. Imagine my horror to be in the midst of rearing four children from 11 yrs to 22 years, who do not like poetry. They do not even have any interest in reading. I however will never give up and hope that in years to come they “get it”. Poetry can and usually does. say so much in so little.
    I write my posts unconventionally on my blog and many newcomers think I am writing poetry. I had to add it to my “about page” that I am not. Far from it. 🙂

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    1. I think you’re right, that in years, they’ll come to appreciate poetry. It’s so hard to do in the face of the poets you’re supposed to like, in a culture with so little reading anyway.

      I would count what you write as poetry– snapshots and essence of your story. 🙂 It’s lovely!

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      1. Thank you. Actually in school for exams my daughter who is fifteen and allergic to me speaking about poetry had to learn certain poems off by heart. Boy did she whinge for Ireland about it. However one of those poems, Shakespears “Shall I compare thee to a Summers Day”now features on an advertisement on TV. She hears it most days and often recites my favorite lines from it and smiles in my direction. I see progress! 🙂

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    1. Haha, that’s alright. 🙂 I still love you.

      I think of this way– there’s tons of people I don’t understand, and tons of literature I don’t understand… but I still enjoy fiction and I still enjoy people. 🙂 I just try to build my world around the ones that, to me, are life-changingly awesome. 🙂

      I’m going to send wishes into the universe for you to find poetry that suits you, so you can be mind-blown by it, too. 😀

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  13. When I use the phrase, “I don’t like poetry,” what I really mean is, “I don’t like feeling confused by something I’ve read.”

    I listen to a lot of top 40 music. Of course the lyrics are a form of poetry. But poetry sung aloud, with the proper inflection and an appropriate beat, is easy to understand.

    To me the point of writing words down is to share a feeling or a thought with another person. If that thought is not clearly and simply conveyed, then you have failed.

    There are poems that have moved me to tears, that I have even memorized through obsessive rereading, (“What lips my lips have kissed”) but those are few and far between.

    Most poems leave me bewildered, frustrated and stupid. If you have something to say, just say it. Make it tangible and succinct. I’m too slow and thick to wade through your morass of disguised meaning.

    Oh Rara, my darlingst, favoritest blogger lady, we must agree to disagree, because your poetry is not for me. =)

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    1. I blame the education that went into your understanding of poetry. That feeling that you have to “get” something is rarely applied to short stories or novels. Poetry is treated the way Animal Farm is treated– like you need to understand the commentary on the morality of sociopolitics. In truth, Charlotte’s Web is just as much of social commentary masked through the use of animals– but in that case, education lets us just enjoy it. It’s no wonder that Charlotte’s Web is a beloved part of most people’s childhoods, and Animal Farm is an unpleasant memory. Literature isn’t about unraveling analogies and “getting” something… it’s about the enjoyment, the feeling, and the thinking that the writing inspires.

      Also important is the fact that the styles of poetry that are about disguising meaning behind analogy and complex form are in the minority. Most forms of poetry, and most famous poets, are mostly about soundbites of big thoughts.

      But yes, one day, when we have hours to sit and chat, we’ll just have to get together for coffee and agree to disagree all day long, haha, 🙂 *hugs*

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      1. yes! I’ll look forward to it! 🙂 We”ll get decent virtual-reality coffee houses within our lifetimes, don’t you think?
        (btw – my education was most certainly lacking, and I feel that lack whenever a conversation tends towards a discussion of art in any form (including books like Animal Farm) – but I’ll save this for a post of my own.

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  14. thank you. I needed to hear today how much poetry matters. 🙂 It’s something I have always known…but it’s always good to hear. I have 2 books in the process of being published. One self published (can’t give up creative control) and one through a publisher. Exciting times for me. Again .. thank you for the smile.

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    1. Congratulations! 🙂 Yes, poetry matters. Not just because it moves people, but for what it offers to the literary world– kudos on being a part of that. 😀

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      1. I am going to find out for sure, then write a poem in iambic pentameter to paint a picture of my true feelings about cats. Expect profanity… and a hint of violence.

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          1. I don’t want PETA throwing paint on my leather handbags or my mink stole (the one I am wearing right now because it’s about 8000° outside today)… so yes, a hint or a foreshadowing.

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    1. Haha, iambic pentameter is one tiny aspect of one tiny genre of poetry. That’s like being afraid of prose because of prepositional phrases or present participles. 🙂

      Also, haha, what on earth is happening to these kitties?? Poor things. I’m thinking you’ve met the wrong sorts of kitties, too…

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      1. Great… now with scariness like prepositional phrases and present participles, I feel the need to retire my blog forever.

        I hate cats… all cats. Simple as that.

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  15. A wonderful article again by you ! Love it 😉 I always wonder how do you manage to write such amusing things ! You know my mind always thinks sad and I write sad lol Love your writing !

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    1. Thank you! That means a lot. I don’t actually consider myself a funny person, so I’m always glad when someone is amused by something I write. 🙂

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          1. Lol I have found this problem with English lol you don’t know the gender of other person until you ask them by yourself lol 😛 It is nice meeting you Miss rarasaur 😉 😛

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  16. Sorry Rara – I’m one of those people who does not like poetry. I do not hear the rhythms in my head as I read poetry, it seems forced to my ear. Rhymes seem forced to me – I just don’t get it!

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      1. I really don’t like the non-rhyming kind – it doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t like short stories either, my favorite read is a long novel (800 pages or more) because I like the way words can work to describe events, times, places, etc. When it’s so packed together in a poem it just seems forced to me & I don’t enjoy it. Sorry Rara.

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          1. Thanks goodness you still love me – I would have been devastated if I lost your love & respect! Blame it on poor teaching – making us dissect poems to try to figure out what they mean & never getting it right!

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  17. “It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.”
    — Stephane Mallarme

    “I pause in my struggle over the placement of a comma,
    the exact site of a break in the clause,
    because the silences matter as much as the noise.”
    —Me

    Regarding flexibility, E. E. Cummings

    I love neologisms. I made up the word “congrue” apparently. A verb from “congruent.” Inflexible WP just tried to correct it to “conjures.”!!!
    Boy, it sure does…

    Form is everything. Even formlessness is a form. Or a reaction to form. It’s like decisions. Even “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
    Yes, I just quoted Rush.

    I think that anyone who says they don’t “get” poetry just hasn’t found the right poem. There is at least one (ok, I think really at least hundreds) poem out there that will speak to everyone. But I guess it can be tricky to find…

    Oh, yeah.
    I can’t stand poetry. But it apparently has a huge crush on me cuz it just won’t ever seem to leave me alone. 😉

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    1. I love the quote by you– because you’re so right. Form is so critical. I see that more than ever in the blogosphere. I read hundreds to thousands of posts a day, and so many of them were wonderful… but just didn’t translate because of form.

      I wish there was an easy way for poetry styles to be discovered. I feel like people hear poetry and think “Shakespeare” and “Keats”– but that’s such a tiny tiny microscopic genre in terms of poetry as a whole. Shel Silverstein is no less a poet.

      🙂 Poetry is a bit of a stalker. It follows me wherever I go!

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  18. I dont like poetry… it isnt like not eating or breathing or any of those things, but 99% of the poetry I read i dont like, I dont get it, Id rather read a short story.

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    1. Not to be the person who uncomfortably tries to “save” everyone, 😉 but maybe I can find a poetry genre you’d like.

      What are some of your favorite authors? 🙂 What do you like about short stories that you don’t find in poetry? Is it the beginning and end feeling?

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      1. As I said, I don’t like 99% of poetry I see, If I am honest I don’ really even read it, If I click into someone’s post and see poetry I generally close the page without really reading . Of the 1% that I “may” look at 90% of that needs to rhyme, I dunno what it is but in my mind poetry needs to rhyme, if it doesn’t then it should be a short story not a poem.

        I cannot really explain it, it just doesn’t get my imagination flowing like a short story can. When I read the replies to my picture writing challenge, On a lot of them I can visualise it all in my head, with poetry I cannot.

        Author wise I like mainly action/adventure or crime stuff so nothing particularly classic.

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  19. Too much Oprah, sorry.

    I am always surprised that of all the genres, be it music or story-telling or comedy, the only real performance that everyday people feel uncomfortable about seeing (and doing!) is poetry. You have an acoustic guitar and want to make some ‘music?’ Jump on up there. What about some jokes, or any other rhetorical performance? Get it done. But if someone, like myself, wants to recite some poetry? Jesus, how awkward!

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    1. No worries. I was pretty Oprah’d out by the end of it, too. But I did learn that she’s apparently pretty popular…haha. Google has approximately 600 quatrillion pictures of her. 🙂

      It’s true… poetry does make people awkward. I really think it goes all the way down to how it’s taught. People feel like something is expected of them, as the reader– which isn’t how they perceive music or prose. We’re pressured a lot as kids to “GET” poetry– whatever that means. I was lucky that I discovered poetry on my own before school got to me, 🙂

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  20. I never generalize, but generally, I prefer prose to poetry. Here’s a haiku explaining why:

    Poetry is lame
    It’s the art form of sissies
    As in this haiku

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    1. Firstly, this made me spit my coffee out, haha!!

      Secondly– You’re clearly reading the wrong kind of poetry. There’s poetry out there that is more stark, brutal, perverted and blasphemous than whole works of fiction could ever be– because prose eases you into it with explanation and history, but poetry slams you with the painful details and walks away. I was going to say that Bukowski, Walt Whitman, and Paul Celan wouldn’t like being called sissies, but the truth is– they’d probably laugh, serve up another glass of whiskey, and say to hell with the people who didn’t get that words can be abundant in their minimality. None of them needed to write an entire story just to core out someone’s insides and feast. 🙂

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      1. Firstly, that was the intention.

        Secondly, my entire comment was just funnin’. Bukowski is one of my favorite writers and I far prefer his poetry to his prose.

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        1. Oh good! Your writing often reminds me of Bukowski with the whole pattern of (a) here’s some pretty, (b) here’s some witty, (c) here’s a punch in the eye. Haha, that didn’t sound quite right, but I mean it as the highest of compliments. I was going to have to mail you a Bukowski book stat if you hadn’t read him yet. 😀

          Though as I’m writing this, I suddenly remember your post about him. Obviously, I have not had enough coffee. 😀

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          1. Thanks! Saying that I write even a little like Buk is an amazing compliment. I don’t try to mimic him, but he’s definitely an influence.

            One entire shelf in my bookcase is dedicated to his books. Last Night Of The Earth Poems is my all time favorite book. It lives in my bedside table for easy reference.

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  21. People won’t admit they read poetry and are moved by it…but late at night they go on the internet and search it out. It is like pornography. I’m dead serious (no pun intended). It is a need that most people will not dare admit to.

    It isn’t a good time for me to expound upon the history of poetry or what caused the American population (among others) claim not to like poets. But I would like to remind everyone, especially those of us who can remember the past several centuries that there was a time that poets were the Rock Stars of our culture.

    Sometimes I pull out my old volumes of favorites and read in the quiet of the night or on a rain soaked day. In turn, I also look for the new. I marvel at the many voices I see with poetry on the internet.

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    1. Haha, I love it. “Poetry is like pornography” should be a t-shirt. 🙂 And, marveling is exactly the right word– I constantly marvel at the wonders of poetry, both the old (no offense, my favorite vampire blogger) and the new.

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  22. Love that you included Tyler Durden as poetry. I would also include “it surrounds, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”
    To your list, I would add that poetry also gives us a palate that is able to taste words. GM Hopkins:
    “I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
    In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,”
    The sweetness of dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon. Love it. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

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    1. Oh Kozo–good thing I grew up on Seuss and nonsense, else-wise that would have tied my metaphorical tongue into very real mental knots!
      LOVE Hopkins! I think the Doctor must have read a lot of GMH.

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    2. “A palate that is able to taste words” – brilliant! I loved it and the poem. Thanks for sharing it, Kozo, it’ll become part of my brain forever now. 😀

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  23. That is a great Oprahsaurus picture at the end, but I’m more a word person than a picture person, so I think the very best super duper excellent amazing part of this whole post is –
    “Poetry is a pink, one-legged flamingo balancing in the center of a wobbly world.”

    I don’t even care if it’s true. Like poetry, it says what it says so well that it becomes true.

    Yeah, I’m a poetry person. And this is yet another great post 😀

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  24. Weird; only this week I thought about writing a post on something similar. Unfunnily enough, there’s not actually that much poetry that tickles my cockles. But the stuff that does has me giggling and or weeping for hours on end. My favourite fella, as cliche as it may be – Edgar Pooh. That brilliantly dark man. I just really wish I could write poetry. I can write prose poetically (I think) but I can’t write poetry. Alas, such is life.

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    1. I love more poetry than I don’t. The bad stuff, the cocky stuff, the silly stuff, the rhymed and the unrhymed. I feel like it gets to the essence of things, and the words often haunt me for days/weeks/years.

      My poetry is “ish”, but it doesn’t stop me from writing it. It’s not that much worse than my writing in general so I shrug off paranoia and just do it.

      Our weirdness is often on the same pathway… hmmm. There’s probably a cosmic truth hidden in that coincidence, but it escapes me just now. 🙂

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  25. I follow several poets who became poets from traumatic events. Poetry is the best medium for a tortured soul. From one who went to poetry after a traumatic event. It keeps me sane.

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    1. It’s true that poetry calls to the tortured soul… it provides so much balance that it’s a comfort to the disquiet. Thanks for adding your insights, 🙂

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  26. The first thing I ever wrote was poetry. I still have my first poem, I wrote it when I was four 😉 I never understand how people can say they don’t like any poetry at all. I mean how can they not like ANY poetry, everything is poetry!

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  27. Thanks for sharing that! I don’t know if I am totally in love with poetry…but I can’t say I don’t like it either. For me it’s always been about what the words draw in my mind’s eye…you know? And sometimes it’s also the feeling I get when I read the words…it doesn’t matter if it’s prose or poetry…
    I do like the list of things that you say poetry can teach us….makes me want to learn to write it..lol

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  28. I definitely agree with the importance of pauses and space, and I think it must become harder and harder to write as words become more limited…but sometimes words just won’t do it! I like writing (and poetry) that gently cups an empty space because there *aren’t* any words for grief or love or joy or elation – it comes to the point where there is only the feeling, irreducible.
    Heh, seem to be going a bit Zen here.:) Should have just said:
    “…”

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  29. I was turned on to poetry in high school by some wonderful teachers (one used to read Chaucer to us in the original Olde English). Frost’s poems about roads and fences were key building blocks in my young personality. As was Henley’s Invictus (gives me chills every time I read it) and Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress (makes me chuckle every time).

    It’s interesting that your five bullet points seem to apply to your communication skills. Those are all very good points! For me, I think it’s a bit simpler. Poetry (like music) is beauty. Life should have beauty. As much as possible.

    Poetry, for all that it’s made of words, transcends the words. That is the irony of poetry: made of words, but about feelings and tone and mood and images. Poetry is like a melody in that it acts like an ink blot. You bring yourself to melody and poetry; you find yourself there. And the beauty of a phrase.

    “I walked around as you do, investigating the endless star,
    and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
    the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.”
    ~~Enigmas, Pablo Neruda

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    1. I also had some marvelous teachers and was imprinted with the wisdom of Frost at a young age. As for Invictus… oh my, it still gives me chills.

      I read my first poem by Neruda in spanish, to myself, while practicing arbitrary literature for an exam. I read it aloud and felt myself tear up and I realized that, even without a really clear translation, it was moving.

      I had my first cup of coffee to a live reading of Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. It was magical. It didn’t hurt that the reader was a gorgeous Irish man. 😉

      I agree with all you said about the beauty of poetry. I feel precisely the same. I focused on communication and practical skill because, when someone “doesn’t like poetry”, I find that what they really mean is that the beauty doesn’t touch them. Much like myself and music– though I suspect in this case, many have not given much poetry a shot, unlike myself who has spent eons of time with music. I was trying to explain to those people why it matters even if you don’t necessary “get” it. It teaches unique skills. 🙂

      BTW – “Poetry is like a melody in that it acts like an ink blot.” is an incredible turn of phrase. Beautiful! 🙂

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      1. Well, I thought your five points were quite excellent! I’d never thought of poetry in a utilitarian way before, although it seems so obvious once you laid it out. No doubt a love of poetry leads to a love of language.

        Neruda in Spanish! That must be something!! There is something about his work that is so incredibly evocative, which is weird considering he’s kind of opaque (at least I find him so).

        Prufrock is another one… I have no idea what Eliot is saying in much of it, but the feelings it evokes are extremely powerful. That’s the real skill and art of poetry to me: filling me with images and emotions yet offering me what often seems mere word salad. That’s pretty awesome.

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  30. I love poetry! Although it’s also an art form that is extremely language specific and language sensitive. It can be difficult to translate from one language to another, nuances and melody might shift and even if it’s a minor shift, it is no longer the same as the original. It can also be difficult to appreciate poetry in a language you don’t really master. I think that this is also some of the strenght of poetry, that it is so… concentrated and precise. I definitely agree that poetry matters! It totally matters, whether in original language or in a translated version.

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    1. You’re completely right. I’m always moved by poets in other languages that translate well– what power! Poetry is definitely a more precise tool of writing, which is why it hones so many skills. Just the right word, just the right format, just the right title, makes all the difference in a poem– and those skills transfer to every other form of writing and communication. Unfortunately, so often, that does mean colloquialisms and translations diminish the original a bit…

      Thank you for reading! 🙂

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  31. I am a writer and till now, my writing has mainly been confined to corporate communications and fiction. While I have always enjoyed reading poetry, it is only more recently that I’ve attempted to write some. And what I’ve found is that poetry somehow allows for a more accurate depiction of one’s feelings. I find that writing poetry (or rather, attempting to!) is more liberating and more satisfying. It gives you more ‘freedom’ with your writing. So I am in the process of exploring it a bit more 🙂 Thanks for a great read!

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    1. It’s absolutely true. Poetry is a finetoothed comb when it comes to writing. It’s a bit tricky to get just right, but it’s an entirely different type of skill. I hope you enjoy your journey with it! 😀

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  32. I am one of those people who says they don’t like poetry…..yet I’m aware of 100s of exceptions to that very generalised statement. Maybe I just don’t like bad poetry?!!! Thanks for making me rethink!

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    1. It’s true that when poetry is bad… it’s really, really bad. 😉 There’s so much great stuff out there, but you really do have to search around for it. It’s not easily sorted like regular fiction. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for being so open-minded as to reconsider your stance! 😀

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  33. Nice post Rara. I like simple expressive poetry. One with heavyweight words goes over my head, moreover if you have to run to dictionary every time it hampers the flow.

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  34. Poetry has saved me. Sometimes we break up for a bit, but we always come back to each other. It spoke to me when I was young, and I heard. Poetry can be the difference for me between feeling and not feeling. Literally a saviour.

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  35. Just read what Wyrdsmyth said Prufrock is another one… I have no idea what Eliot is saying in much of it, but the feelings it evokes are extremely powerful. That’s the real skill and art of poetry to me: filling me with images and emotions yet offering me what often seems mere word salad. That’s pretty awesome.’ That is what I mean. Eliot has exactly that profound effect on me, I may not ‘know’ what he is meaning, but I feel something magical, connective. Marvellous.

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