Poetry is what’s thrilling, while a poem is that poor thing with eleven readers, eight of them members of the poet’s extended family.–Damion Searles
The above quote is funny in two ways. It’s funny (ha-ha) because it has a thread of truth. Lots of poems have precious few readers. However, certain poems break through and change lives significantly. Our cultural mythology about poetry claims it is largely rarefied, obscure, and impenetrable. Which brings us to the second way this quote is funny (as in strange). It’s strange because it’s not how we humans actually engage with poetry, at least much of it, and on many occasions.
Truth is, poetry stalks us daily in ways we hardly recognize. In my coaching and teaching work with scores of people, including business people, leaders, scientists, CPAs, engineers, attorneys, teachers, doctors, and other medical professionals, I’ve personally seen many people engage deeply with poetry when it’s presented rightly. Rightly means selected poems, presented well and hitched up to our most practical needs. Many needs we realize only after they’re triggered and satisfied.
Of course, if you combine poetic language with a catchy tune, it is transformed into the joyful popular music we used to pickle ourselves with, during our youth and beyond, as we fell in love with another person or simply life in general.
And speaking of joy, have you ever been to a wedding, a graduation or other kind of celebratory event that did not include poetry or poetic language? If you have and it was yours, you may now slowly shake your head in sorrow and vow to correct that hurtful error at your next joyful occasion, of course with good poetry.
In the end, poetry helps usremember, understand, grow, re-balance, feel more inspired, and experience deeper levels of gratitude. It is the language of the soul no matter what our religious or spiritual beliefs. It is also nature’s dialect of sound and silence, though we often miss this fact. Just listen to any average stream in spring, or sit quietly in dark silence watching the stars at new moon. Yes. Poetry.
And lastly, and perhaps especially, poetry is the language of loss and grief. Ask anyone living in this vulnerable and fierce life space, and they will tell you better than I, even if the only poem they know by heart is… Ahhhhh.