It’s exam time for High School students.Â For my daughters, this means buckle down and study time. For me – it means quizzing them when asked and being infinitely impressed at all they know, who they’re becoming and how far they’ve come from that moment I first met them.
My oldest daughter is leaning to a post-secondary career that requires Maths and Sciences ~ English is a requirement throughout High School, but it’s not her favourite subject – and like many I’ve encountered over the years, she fails to see the point of it most of the time.
Earlier this week, she gave me two poems and asked me to read them and share my thoughts with her afterward. Seems these two poems would be featured in her final exam with one question ~ and she was struggling to interpret the poems in a way that would allow her to write an essay over the course of two hours on one question. The teacher alluded that the question would be something like, “Why do people write poetry?” or “Why do we read poetry?” She’s home from writing it now – it was the latter, ‘why do we read poetry?’
I actually don’t read poetry – though I’m fairly certain that part of my heart is Poetic in nature. I am an English Major though – and finding themes, patterns, literary devices and interpretations in the written expression of another is one of the things that I do best. So, I read the two poems she offered me, read the notes she made in the margins ~ and added thoughts and feelings of my own.
We spent an hour on the back deck last night ~ identifying 3 key reasons why people might write poetry ~ and 3 key reasons why they might read it too. I found this easier to do when extending the art of Poetry out into the realm of Art itself. Why do we connect to paintings, to photographs, to dance routines, to song lyrics and – to poetry? I think, maybe, because it eases us out of our minds and gently places the focus on our hearts. And sometimes, the shift isn’t an ‘easing’ so much as an abrupt awakening – depending on the Poet/Artist.
Poets help us see things in ways we hadn’t seen them before. They urge us into experience, with our senses, in ways that other aspects in life do not. They personify inanimate objects and concepts in ways that encourage us to see things around us differently than we did before. And – they put their hearts and souls on the page in ways that allow us to interpret them as we will ~ assigning meaning and connection that makes sense to us; go with the memory that’s triggered, hear that song in your head, think it’s about this or about that – as long as it moves you somehow in some way and you’re different from having been here, reading the words.
Poets add colour, nuance, shade and shadow. They can talk about Winter and Spring using words like ‘bare tree’ and ‘new bud’. In short, they are awake – they are present in ways that we sometimes are not. And they bring that presence to us through their words ~ allowing us to see, hear, feel, sense the world differently as a result.
Upon reflection ~ many of the people I’m connecting to now, and in the recent past, are Poets – in one sense or another. And as I realize this – it’s not all that surprising, being that Presence, Magic and Wonder are aspects in life I actively seek out each and every day.
How might you have answered this question – why do we read poetry?