When people think of poetry, they think “stacked”, wearing layers of uncomfortable clothes to cover the meaning, the original thought and to create a bit of mystery with the work. So when the words leave the heart of the writer, much is veiled by the time it gets to the reader/listener. When I think of poetry I think of two words, “I am”. When the Isreli God told Moses to speak to pharaoh, all he said to tell him were those words. I think that he understood the importance of being concise, simple but meaningful in delivery. Poetry does not tell me to put clothes on, it invites me to take them off.
But this is not about me, this is about you. You don’t write poetry, you never even listened to it until very recently at a random open mic night. You suddenly realised that it is beyond “thy” and “thou”, that maybe all poets sound funny when they perform, but they make a bit of sense. It’s not about defending the honor of the royalty, I think poetry is…ok maybe it is. But if you’re not completely sold on why you need to read more poetry, here’s my case.
Poetry helps you understand your spectrum of emotions. Can you remember the last time you weren’t happy, but not sad. Just an interesting limboed feeling you can’t put a name on, how did it make you feel, not knowing how to describe it? Emotions aren’t cut and dried into happy, sad, excited, angry. If you could color how you feel, what would you come up with? How would you name it? Poetry has given us ways to name them, to call them out, to sit with them and attempt at sorting to the whys and hows of them.
Poetry helps you ask nuanced questions. Yesterday you said “hello, how are you?” and someone said “fine”. It was kind of you to ask, and you really wanted to know how that person felt, but somehow you were unable to peel past that darned four letter word branded on our collective tongue. What are other ways to ask about our heart? How can you ask “did you breathe easier today”, “were you content with existing?”, “is joy your only win today, how did that make you feel?”. It will be difficult to answer, but it should be difficult to answer. We are multilayered people still being introduced to our unconscious, we are not fine.
Poetry helps you be more vulnerable. We are just learning how to let go, we are just unraveling years from our minds. There is a deviation from the norm happening here and we are all tired. We are dropping the weight, one trauma at a time and it is new and hard. But you don’t know the language for this new person you’re trying to become. You put your hands out and describe how you feel, the best way you can. That is poetry. Poetry invites you to strip, to show your hand and learn all the ways of saying “I can’t, I’m tired, I’m unlearning, I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying”
Poetry introduces the world to you. A door becomes a new thing, windows take on a new meaning, you are bringing out meaning from each new thing your body does and everyday you interact with the world, something new flows into our language. Poetry is your way of inviting the world in. It helps you find significance in the mundane things. How beautiful is it to study your life and allow your world perform itself to you again? What new joy would you find, this time?