What Poetry Means to Me

I could not live in a world without poems.  I think I would disintegrate if I could not put words on paper just so.  My days would ramble on bland and flat if I were unable to experience the ineffable miracles of life through the eyes of our world’s poets.

Poets crack open the human experience like a walnut, expose the guts of life, and then roast, venerate, castigate, beautify or sing its truth out to the world.  Sometimes it’s a gory mess.  Sometimes it’s a delicate blossom.  Sometimes we rage with the poet and sometimes we celebrate with her.

Poets are the eyes and hearts of the people, making something personal, universal.  A poet says what must be said.  And the way he says it…wow!

When we read a good poem we nod our heads, we get it, it silences us, it kicks us in our guts, it resonates in our bones with a feeling not unlike hitting the funny bone.  A good poem is a thing that cannot be ignored.  We may never be the same again because, in some way, large or small, it has changed us or how we see the world.  And, reading a good poem, we sometimes feel a rush of gratitude that someone out there understands us, relieving us of the fear that we are alone.

Stephen Covey says that “the deepest need of the human heart is simply to be understood.”  I think this is why so many people write poetry, this hunger, this need to share our self, our life experience with others and have our voices heard.  We want our lives to be validated in some way.

Good poems do that.  To me a good poem illuminates a truth about life or the world in a unique voice and skillful hand.  Not everyone can write a good poem.  Some poets come to the craft of poetry intuitively, but most study it.  The remembered and venerated poets master it.  A few defy and revolutionize it.

The appreciation of poetry, like all art forms, is subjective, but poetry is an art form.  Heart in a poem lacking technical craft is like a bowl of jell-o.  It may taste good but it has no legs to stand on; it’s wobbly, it doesn’t hold up.  Likewise, technical expertise without heart and soul results in a poem that will quickly be forgotten.  After an admiration of the craft nothing meaningful is left behind; we just walk away.

Here’s one of my favorite poems.  It walloped me in my first reading of it and stings me every time I recall it or read it now, like the snap of a rubber band on my wrist, reminding me of something I did not want to forget.  The poet captures a mighty big truth in the small details of ordinary life.

The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

What favorite poem would you like to share?

photo by Angelo Domini