A Plea for Poetry
Posted on June 7, 2016

More poetry, please, is my plea as the words whirl around me and I am fatigued by the 5th grade locker room exchanges which pass for electioneering. Hear me out.

What I have always loved about poetry is the mystery, the challenge to delve beneath the surface and find what the author is struggling to share. I say “struggle” advisedly since it is so hard to speak of what is nearest our hearts and yet must be said. For that reason, lovers need poetry and those in grief or mental turmoil. The rest of us?

Yes, we need it too. While I spent many years of my life opening literature to adolescents, my biggest difficulty was helping them see the truths that poetry wants us to find. Everything cannot always be spelled out and the insight of a poet is often his or her gift to those of us who are being invited to see with new eyes.

Abraham Lincoln knew that. He tore up the original of his speech at Gettysburg and on the back of an envelope he scribbled down lines that speak volumes more than the literal words. The lengthy orator who preceded him has been swallowed up in history. Lincoln’s words remain as poetry, as lines that provoke us to read in and through them to a truth far greater than the few syllables uttered. That is what I mean by poetry.

Forget rhyme and meter. Forget rhythmic structure. But ask yourself: is there anything more in what I am reading or hearing than the blunt literal meaning of the words? If not, regardless of what the author called it, I say you have no poetry.

Are politics and poetry compatible? Why not? Are not both inspired by passion to convey a truth? I would hope so. Some might laugh when I issue my call for poetic politicians, but I would love our national discourse to rise to heights that challenge us to think rather than to viscerally react without thought.

What do you think?


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