People often cringe at the concept of poetry. Many will say they don’t enjoy reading poems because they’re “confusing” or “too emotional” or “just plain boring.”
It doesn’t help when people think of poems, they often imagine three kinds of people writing them: 1. teenagers going through every kind of mood swing imaginable 2. hipsters wanting to look smart or 3. dead old white people who didn’t even know what germs were.
The belief that all poets reside in those three categories leads people to assume poetry isn’t for them.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’re beginning to see more poets emerge from marginalized communities, writing about experiences we often don’t hear about through mainstream media.
Poets like Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong and Warsan Shire share their perspectives with the reader. As we read these stanzas, we begin to learn what it’s like to be an immigrant or person of color or member of the LGBT community.
These are unique perspectives, but they are also perspectives many people can relate to.
We can find poetry written by people who have experienced the same things as us, regardless of factors like our race, sexuality, or beliefs.
Vuong’s imagery stands out to me and I will always appreciate his ability to find hope against all odds. The words “The most beautiful part of your body is where it’s heading” will always mean a lot to me.
Poetry teaches us that our experiences are universal regardless of where we come from or who we are.
In fact, poetry bridges a gap in understanding between people of different backgrounds. A reader can learn to sympathize with the writer despite whatever differences they may have as individuals.
Even if you can’t personally relate, you can feel Smith’s pain as a black man when he says “ask not what your country can do for you / ask if your country is your country.”
One can understand Shire’s experiences as a woman when she compares herself to a house, writing “Sometimes the men – they come with keys, and sometimes, the men – they come with hammers.”
The ability to sympathize with another despite our differences is, in my opinion, a great lesson to learn in the polarizing times we live in.
Through different forms of art, we’re able to learn a lot about the world we live in. If you refuse to read poetry, you’re closing yourself off from learning about communities that are too often ignored.
Poetry is also just an interesting way to express your thoughts and feelings. It’s a way of writing that takes on many forms: it can be formatted differently and use different rhyming schemes or not rhyme at all.
In the great collection of poetry forms, whether it’s a sonnet or haiku, there’s bound to be one that speaks out to you.
Of course, not every poem will be enjoyable to you. That’s okay.
Candian poet Anne Carson said in a CBC Radio interview that “Poetry in general doesn’t do anything…Some of them I don’t get, some of them seem banal, some of them change my life. So there you go. It’s bound to be a spectrum, it’s the same with bagels.”
Even if one poem isn’t your cup of tea — or brand of bagel, to use Carson’s metaphor — the one poem alone shouldn’t deter you from enjoying poetry in general.
Poetry is a platform for anybody to have their voices heard. It’s for everybody.