By Katharine Grubb
Poetry is better than food.
At least sometimes it is.
Just like we eat a variety of things so that we can nourish our bodies, I think we should read a variety of poems so that we can nourish our souls. I love that some poetry is bite sized like a Dickinson poem or a haiku. I like that some poetry is a full five course meal, like a Longfellow poem.
1. Like vegetables, poetry is good for you.
If you have the literary nutrition of a poem daily, the you can appreciate rhythm, imagery, metaphor, meaning, communication, pathos, storytelling and good craftsmanship. If you analyze it, much in the same way you would analyze a novel, you will most certainly find value. Ask yourself these questions: What is the poet trying to say? Why did he make the choices that he made? What emotions are you experiencing as a result of the poem? What insight do you have that you didn’t have before? Why was this so important to this poet? What are literary elements, like alliteration, repetition and assonance used here? What does this poet want his reader to take from it?
2. Many great writers were poets. If you read these manageable bites from great writers, you’re sampling great writing.
YouTube is full of lectures on the great poets of literature. By taking the time to study the turbulent lives of the poets, their muses, their successes and their failures, it can make you appreciate not just the art that is created but the journey each writer took to make it. Crash Course has a great series on literature. And this one is about Emily Dickinson is hilarious. Can you sing them to I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing or Yellow Rose of Texas?
3. Poetry won’t make you fat. Little Debbies cakes will.
You can indulge all you want. If I want to gorge on the 500 most popular poems in literature, check out this book. It’s one of my favorites! You can even hoard, I mean, collect your favorites in one place at PoemHunter.com.
4. You don’t have to go to the grocery store to get great poetry.
You don’t! You can find it nearly everywhere! Besides Poetry Hunter, there’s also The Poetry Foundation, Academy of American Poets and Poetry.com which is an online community for amateur poets. If you still can’t find that one with the dashes by Emily Dickonson or the sad one by Sylvia Plath or the Wordsworth poem in which he ponders how great nature is, check your local library. It’s likely they have a whole section devoted to poetry and all of these resources are free!
5. Poetry is for everyone. Beluga caviar is not.
Poetry was originally used to remember events, pass down history and entertain the common people long before literacy. If you are really into poetry, you’re not all that different from people of ancient civilizations who treasured the way poetry made them feel or reminded them of the past. You are not a literary snob if you can recite Paul Revere’s Ride, you just like everyone else who wanted to remember a great event in a fun way. It’s even more fun if you listen to Sean Astin read it.
6. Food just gives you necessary chemicals for life. Poetry makes you a great writer.
Novelists can benefit from the lessons taught by the great poets. We’re so busy making our characters likable and our plot points believable that we leave out the metaphor, the pathos, the art. I think in our rush to self-publish that we forget the necessity of the time required for good craftsmanship. As long as we don’t take a lesson from Coleridge and use drug use to create a Kubla Khan, (which I think should be an exception, not a rule.) A little nuance, a little subtlety, a little mystery a challenge may do them some good. We can learn this from great poems.
7. Poetry can get you through tough times better than chocolate ice cream.
We’ve all had some bad break-ups that require high-calorie dairy products to get over. But with poetry as the salve to your broken heart, you can articulate your pain more precisely. This is When We Two Parted by Lord Byron. Don’t look too closely to Byron for relationship advice. He was kind of, um, weird.
8. Quoting poetry makes you look smart. If you memorize the back of the cereal box, no one cares.
I think everyone should memorize poetry. Memorize it for the sake of the discipline of it, of committing something to your soul, of tasting the words as they come off the tongue, of subconsciously realizing that these poems were put together with great care and craftsmanship. This is Longfellow! Tennyson! These aren’t slapdash inklings of a self-absorbed teen. This is something you can carry with you.But this article argues this point far better than I can. So does The New Yorker. So does The New York Times.
9. Poetry can go with you everywhere. You don’t need a cooler.
This article is from 2012, but it’s still mostly relevant. You can carry poetry in your head. You can carry poems on your phone. And no matter how many times you quote The Raven, you’ll never get crumbs in the bottom of your purse.
10. Good poems have a longer shelf life than dairy product
We shouldn’t let our own voice sink to the lowest common denominator. We should, instead, nurture it with great words like those found in the poems of the past and present. We imitate what we have before us. If all we read is junk literature, the latest pulp novel, a sappy, uninspired romance — all of which are like pop culture bursts of nothing — then our work will could potentially be stuck in the pedestrian and the common. One way to fight this is to surround ourselves with the wholesome, the healthy and the literarily nutritious.
Why do we need it poetry? Writers who savor poetry become better writers.
What about you? What’s your favorite poet? Your favorite poem? Your favorite source for great poetry! Please share!
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.