What Is A Poem?

Every so often (probably more than you’d expect), people say to me, “I just don’t get poetry.” Maybe that’s you.

If it is – or even if it isn’t – here’s a helpful piece from The Atlantic. It’s a friendly, non-jargony, slightly cheeky intro to poetry.

How many of us believe poetry is useless? How many of us don’t even care to ask the question, “Is poetry useless?”

Comparatively, a poem moves a reader, physically or emotionally, very rarely. Other media are much better at bringing us to tears—television, the movies. And if we want the news, we read an article online or glean our Twitter feed. If we want something between tears and the news, we just stare at our children when they ask a question that sounds more like a statement: “Why do grown-ups drink so much beer?”

But seriously, isn’t a poem a home for deep feelings, stunning images, beautiful lyricism, tender reflections, and/or biting wit? I suppose so. But, again, other arts or technologies seem better at those jobs—novels offer us real or imaginary worlds to explore or escape to, tweets offer us poignant epigrams, painting and design offer us eye candy, and music—well, face it, poetry has never been able to compete with that sublime combo of lyrics, instruments, and melody.

Read the rest here.

 

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  • I write a lot of poetry and there are days when I feel like its useless, so the question is fair. But it is also a question rooted in our culture’s tendency to worship productivity and efficiency.

    Of course, poetry is useless. As Oscar Wilde said, all art is quite useless. And that is what makes it essential.