Why Poetry Matters: The Power of Intentional Poetry
Like any art form, poetry serves a number of functions in society. What makes it unique, though, is how it uses words and rhythm to convey a meaning that is beyond the literal. Among its many benefits, poetry can increase empathy, help us pass down memories, promote political change, help us heal, and empower us to see the world with fresh eyes.
Poetry increases empathy.
Expressing ideas and feelings are central to the nature of poetry. Whether we are reading or writing poetry, the act is an invitation to feel deeply and fully. Studies show that reading poetry regularly can help people increase their empathy. Often, it is also an invitation for us to understand perspectives and experiences different from our own. It can help people bridge cultural gaps, age differences, economic inequality, and other social issues.
Poetry helps us remember.
Poetry began as an oral tradition. Before writing was widely accessible, it served as a way to help people pass down stories and information. On a practical level, rhythm and rhyme help the human brain remember things more easily. Reading poetry with children is popular for just that reason. It can help children remember important lessons and teach them about language. However, poetry also helps us remember history more broadly. When poets record important events in their lives, and in the world at large, they are capturing an essential piece of the human experience—one that will transcend time and make an impact for generations.
Poetry can influence political change.
Art has been used as a form of resistance throughout history, and poetry is no exception. Poets who are activists have used their voices to push back against unjust government structures, societal norms and expectations, institutionalized oppression, and so much more. Whether using poetry for political change, to protect the environment, or to fight for social justice, the empathy-building power of the art can build bridges that change the world.
Poetry promotes healing.
Reading and writing poetry can help us connect with and better understand ourselves. The practice encourages mindfulness, serves as an outlet for expression, and can even help us connect with one another. And because poetry can be about any experience, there is likely a poem that will resonate with us at any stage of life. There are poems for comfort, poems for grief, poems for loneliness, and poems for self-care. If reading a poem helps us feel heard, writing one can be all the more rewarding.
Poetry helps us appreciate the world.
Poetry is largely about the art of observation. Poets pay careful attention to the world around them in order to analyze and describe it in beautiful, thought-provoking ways. Transcendentalist poetry, which emphasizes the connection between the speaker and nature, is a great example of this. But nature isn’t the only thing that we can focus on through poetry. The art form can also encourage us to pay more attention to ourselves, our relationships, and the simple things in life. The practice of mindfulness and keen observation can be an eye-opening experience that reminds us not to take life for granted.