Poetry has no part in society

nopoetryA friend of a Facebook friend (neither of whom I know personally) posted this today:

I feel like poetry has no part in society. We never use poetry in our lives but sometimes it is fun to read. I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

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I feel like poetry has no part in society.

Young One, you are right. It has no “part.” It has, in fact, a “whole.” It is the whole of our society. It exists to take its flashlight into the darkness of the human soul and shine it around and show everybody else what’s going on in there.

Shelley said in another century that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. I still believe this to be true. A poet is a special kind of being who feels compelled to use the form to uncover truths about our world. It, thus, does not have a part: It instead demands the all.

We never use poetry in our lives.

My Child, the first tool of the poet is metaphor. Have you made any comparisons today? Bet you have, whether you said them, wrote them or just thought them. We can’t help but be metaphor-makers.

Has a poem ever enriched your life? Of course, it has, whether you think about it every day or not: It has impacted you. From the poetry in nursery rhymes you heard as a child to the specious poetry of advertising to the tales of Shakespeare and The Odyssey and The Iliad, passages from the Bible, poems that became songs and songs that became poems: These pieces all live in us.

You can’t use poetry like you use a blow dryer or a pencil or a chainsaw. You let poetry use you. You let the language and the experience embodied in those words use you to create a picture in the mind’s eye and a way of being in the physical body. We are the filters for the experience of poetry. We are the tools, not the poems.

But sometimes it is fun to read.

Agreed.

I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

Is this a poem?

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Damn straight it is. Langston Hughes. Word.

Innocent One, there is no definitive idea of what a poem is. My favorite definition of poetry is Emily Dickinson’s. She said that if she felt when reading as if the top of her head were coming off, then she knew it was poetry.

Saying a poem has to rhyme is like saying the sun goes around the earth. Both propositions were never true even when they were a part of the collective unconscious.

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