what is poetry and why do I care?
Recently, I had a realization.  Aside from myself and about half of the world of academia, when it comes to poetry, Nobody. Cares.  It's not as if they think that poetry is irrelevant, it's just that with so many other things to think about, like food and clothing and money, something as irrational and sometimes inaccessible as poetry, or any art in general, automatically goes pretty low on the list of life priorities for many people.

I mentioned that poetry is sometimes inaccessible.  That's true-- poetry operates on feelings and connections and allusions in a way that other kinds of writing don't.  It's easy to experience the literal narrative of a novel or short story while also being distracted by daily life.  Poetry isn't like that; it requires intense concentration and the stubbornness to pry the words open to find the feeling underneath.  Poetry isn't 'light reading.'  And, since we all have more important things to worry about, we often don't take the time to really experience the beauty of poetry.


And sometimes poetry is just hard to understand-- what is it even?  It's writing, but in lines, and weird words-- what??? Well, I like to say that we think in cuneiform, and we have to translate our thoughts before we can speak them.  Poetry is as close as humans can come to speaking without that pesky translation process-- and sometimes it comes out jumbled and sometimes it comes out almost incomprehensible, but that's part of the point.  In a world where things are censored and considered a million times before they ever make their way out of a person's head, poetry is as close as we can get to raw expression.


So, unlike prose, poetry isn't about the literal narrative.  Sometimes a literal narrative assists the poem, but the literal narrative isn't what the poem is about.  The poem is about the feelings and connections that humans all experience.  So, if you don't understand a poem, That's Okay.  You still felt something, and that's what poetry is about.


So, why in the world do I care?  Why am I planning to get multiple degrees in poetry, of all things?  I've admitted that there are so many other things that are far more relevant to our everyday survival-- why am I not getting a degree in business or something?  Well, I've always been interested in the raw, unfiltered part of humans.  The parts that we don't show to anyone, and the parts of ourselves that we don't fully understand.  For me, poetry is a way to explore those parts.  It's like science in that regard: fueled by an insatiable curiosity about what makes us human.   Really, science and art are two different ways of trying to answer the same question: what are we?  Can we ever understand ourselves and our universe?  Science says yes! Through objective experimentation, we can learn and understand so much about how things work.  Art, on the other hand, embraces the ambiguity of the human experience.  We may not ever understand, poetry says, and That's Okay.

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