The Point (and Pointlessness) of Poetry
Poetry encapsulates everything we love and hate- the good, bad, and ugly of this existence.
December 16, 2020
I know what you think when “poetry” floats through your head- snapping, poshness, painful Shakespearean sonnets- goodness, I could continue on forever.
But I am not here to compare anyone to a summer’s day, or force feed you English Romanticism.
I am here to take on another task within the wild, undefinable realm of this weird art- I am going to attempt to describe its purpose.
Now, it’s easy to distinguish poetry from prose- but, aside from technique, defining the vague sensation you get from reading a satisfying poem is nearly impossible. However, that doesn’t mean such a sensation is unimportant.
If said art was unimportant, then how has it withstood the test of time?
While I’m sure the common teenager roaming the halls of Elkhorn High School is not enamored with poetry, the United States has a Poet Laureate (currently Joy Harjo) who is tasked with raising awareness for verse, as does England with Simon Armitage. It is clear that poetry is upheld in a high light, though maybe not the limelight.
But, I can still feel the question throbbing like a thunderstorm inside your mind- Jack, what’s the point of poetry?!
Well, there is no point. Except for maybe weaving the undefinable emotions whirling inside of you into the words you want to say to your crush- or, on a much more grim note, mourning a loved one who recently passed away- or maybe even just admiring watching the sunset.
The point is, poetry is everything and nothing wrapped into a cryptic message scribbled across a piece of paper. The word poem comes from the Greek word poiema- which literally means “creation”. How much broader can it get?
Perhaps the vagueness of poetry is what makes it such a challenge- how can one encapsulate broad topics such as love, death, even life into concrete images and thought?
How can one encapsulate the beauty of everyday objects, such as a muffin?
While it may be extremely overdramatized and silly, poetry makes us understand the significance of every little and big thing in our lives (including but not limited to muffins).
And, to paraphrase the movie Dead Poets Society, poetry is life.
Now, before you groan about the outrageousness of my completely sane yet bold statement, you have to hear my argument.
It circles back to the vastness of poetry. Poetry, from language poems to haikus, captures a sense of the insensible, almost indescribable feelings and thoughts of life. Poems provide a unique perspective on mundane or over-abused topics, or confront original concepts.
Am I saying a poem can change the world? No. That would not require sitting down in confusion over a complex piece of art, and analyzing it.
But, there are some important things it can do.
A poem helps us enjoy the vast absurdity of existing in a painful, beautiful world. It aids us in understanding other novel perspectives. It allows us to see the pure genius in mundane objects and things. And, to conclude this vague opinion piece, I am going to throw out a bold statement.
You don’t only read and write poetry- you live it.