People like poetry.
Even if we don’t like to read books of poetry, even if E.E. Cummings isn’t our favorite poet, we still like poetry.
Poetry is all around us: it’s in the music we listen to, in the inspirational speeches given in movies, as well as in actual books with actual poetry in them.
If nothing else, we like the idea behind poetry. Even if it’s the technical ideas of rhyming. Rhymes please us.
And even poetry doesn’t rhyme, we still enjoy it. We still thirst for poetry.
What gives poetry its power?
I’d like to take a short while today looking into the power that poetry has, and why it matters to us.
Power in Simplicity
Poems are short.
Unless you’re reading Paradise Lost, The Iliad, and those other “Epics”, most poems can be read in less than three minutes.
Most of us, in our regular lives, don’t have a lot of time for leisure. A poem affords us something that can take only minutes to consume while providing a lot of enjoyment. Now, most poems take a lot more than three minutes to fully grasp all the implications of, but they still take less time than a movie or a book. I can read a poem and then spend ten minutes thinking about it and then move on.
If I have two hours of down-time to just read poetry and really ponder it, I can read twelve poems and thoroughly understand and enjoy them.
If I have two hours of down-time to just watch a movie or read a book, I probably won’t finish either, and I certainly won’t be able to finish one and then ponder the meaning of it as well.
Poetry is concise. Many forms of poetry are limited by word count, line count, or syllable count. Every single letter counts in poetry. It’s easy to be verbose in prose, but everything must be tight and orderly in poetry. Unnecessary words cannot exist in a good poem.
And that’s where it gains its power. Every word must be packed with meaning if it’s going to be a worthwhile poem. It has to point to things outside itself and that drives the reader to do more than just read the words, but to also understand them.
Power in Emotion
Poetry is usually written to inspire emotion. Sometimes it will tell a concrete story (especially in song form), but most often poetry will tell about emotion and let the reader apply it to their own story.
When you read poems, you don’t necessarily see a concrete scene. Instead, you see ideas and emotions and possibilities. That allows you the freedom to construct those ideas on your own time and polish them into something that gives you immense joy or pain or revelation.
Everyone can empathize with any poem, given enough time to ponder it. Not everyone, however, can or ever will empathize with the characters in, say, Divergent or Lord of the Rings. And that’s okay.
Poetry is made to be emotive. It drives us to feel.
I’m not really the one to give advice about poetry because I haven’t done much outside free-form, but I will say this: write poetry.
Don’t just say “oh, that’s for poets”, because it’s not. Anyone can write poetry with practice. Will you be amazing at it?
But the chance to create emotion, even if it’s just for yourself, is well worth it.
Write free-verse. Write structure poetry.