The Value of Writing Poetry

So I have kind of a funny relationship with poetry. I never really understood it as I was growing up, and because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t like it. I thought it was silly and worthless and couldn’t imagine why anyone would care to read or write it. (I was a very silly child and held that opinion about a lot of things) I did eventually grow out of that narrow view, but for years poetry still wasn’t really “on my radar”. Even after I started writing stories, I hardly thought about it. It wasn’t until I was about 20 that I made my first attempt at writing poetry, but ever since I’ve been in love with it. It’s a wonderful thing! Good poetry can express what nothing else can, not prose or a painting or anything. Poetry is, I think, the closest we can come to truly speaking our hearts. But, more than that, writing poetry is an extremely valuable exercise for writers and non-writers alike. I think I’ve said on this blog before that I think everyone ought to write. I’m going to amend that statement: I think everyone ought, not just to write, but also to write poetry.

Now, a lot of people might protest. They might say that their poetry is awful, that they have no talent for it and no one would ever want to read it. But that isn’t the point. Even if your poetry is truly awful, I think there can still be benefit in it for at least one person–for you, the writer. Of course, ultimately, we must strive to write poetry that can be enjoyed by many people, but to start with, entertaining yourself isn’t bad.

One of the most obvious benefits of writing poetry, for anyone, is that it can be a great help for working through tricky emotions. Writing about any difficult, emotional subject can be a helpful way to order your thoughts and feelings, and writing about it in poetic language can be extremely cathartic, because poetry is such a good way to express those emotions. Poetry also helps you to look at the world differently, to see more of the pattern and rhythm in it–and the attention that you have to pay to finding precise descriptions of things in your poems can bring out the beauty of the world around you in a whole new way, because you start to notice more.

For people who also write prose (and especially fiction), writing poetry has even more benefits. It will help you learn to be concise. It will help you learn to pick just the right images and descriptions to convey an emotion or meaning. The rigors of writing with rhyme and meter will not only help to give your prose a nicer flow and a more rhythmic sound, they will help you to get a better grasp of the language. The very tight restrictions of many forms of poetry (especially the more traditional forms) are probably the most useful thing I’ve found to help me learn to make better use of English, in addition to being a lot of fun in their own right. Almost as useful is poetry that eschews traditional forms and uses your own, self-imposed guidelines, because that teaches you to do on a small scale what you must do over the course of an entire novel, if you want to keep everything properly in line with itself.

In short, poetry, besides being beautiful and excellent all on its own, is also very useful for all kinds of people, I think that everyone ought to cultivate a habit of writing it–even they aren’t very good and never show their poetry to anyone. There are many more benefits besides what I’ve written down here. Try it yourself, and see!

~ Jared

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