Art is a manifestation of the kind of special beauty that can be so rare to find in our everyday lives. It can exist in so many forms whether that be in the visual arts of cinema, the performing arts of music or perhaps most importantly, in literature. While novels and plays can cause us to question our beliefs, revel in the imagination and be consumed by a feeling so enticing, nothing can elicit such a powerful and emotional feeling like poetry. While poetry may be revered by many for its supposedly pretentious and incomprehensible construction, it is in discovering all the details that are hidden in these works of brilliance that make it poignant in a way nothing else can possibly match.
There is something so innately beautiful in the construction of poetry. The idea that a limited number of words can be crafted together in a way that creates such meaning and emotion is truly remarkable. That is exactly why poetry is simply so much more impactful than standard prose can possibly be. It is through the restrictions which the author places on themselves that magic happens. There must be deep thought and focus on every single word and how it contributes to the grander meaning which the poet wishes to get across to the reader.
Reading poetry is so beneficial particularly due to how it challenges us as individuals to explore new perspectives and break free of our ethical, moral and intellectual barriers. An article from Paste titled, “Why Read Poetry? Because It Can Make You More Empathetic”, explores this concept of how poetry allows us to be less rigid in our thinking with an authentic, personal touch. When you read poems, nothing is often straightforward. Every poem has a meaning hiding under it, but it is blocked by a myriad of literary devices such as metaphors and symbolism. It is important to be able to think more figuratively because it allows you to understand ideas and perspectives in a more abstract and possibly more meaningful way.
A poem titled ‘Death is Nothing at All’ by Henry Scott-Holland, perfectly exemplifies how poetry allows us to understand a concept more meaningfully such as death in this case. It is a poem about someone who has gone into the afterlife who is attempting to comfort the loved ones they have left behind. This particular line, “Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it’’ is used to describe how when we say the name of someone that we have lost, there is always a melancholy feeling that comes along with it, reminding us of the ‘ghost’ of our past. While you could simply describe the pain and tragedy that comes with speaking a loved one’s name literally, the metaphor that has instead been chosen is far more impactful and poignant. To describe a loved one as though they are an ethereal being by your side symbolises how people try to hold onto the fond memories of their loved ones despite their passing due to the deep connection which they shared. The poem manages to provides us with an emotional understanding of grief in a new, almost abstract perspective which we may never have considered before. It’s that abstract meaning that can only be discerned through the art of poetry instead of simply stating the obvious.
It’s not only that poetry allows us to understand ideas and emotions in a far more meaningful way, but through continually reading poetry, we ensure that these ideas are constantly being recognised yet in new and innovative ways each time the words come off the page. An article from TED Ideas titled, ‘What happens when we read poetry?’, explores the idea of poetry being an event which is reliant on readers to bring it alive. When you truly think about it, poetry is meaningless when it has been left to gather dust on a piece of paper. It is simply a memory of an idea conjured up by a writer with something to say. Poetry must be read, it needs to be experienced because it keeps these ideas burning. These meaningful concepts about the nature of life, death and everything. Every time a person reads a poem, a new bright spark emerges in that person’s head. A new way of thinking, a new way of understanding. That is exactly why poetry must be read.
In a poem titled ‘In Memory of W.B Yeats’ by W.H. Auden, there is a significant line regarding the grand effect of poetry. This line, “For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives”, suggests the concept that poetry is never truly alive nor dead. The ideas and hidden messages in every poem will always outlive the writer who first penned down those very lines. Another line later in the poem describes poetry as a “way of happening”, in that poetry is an event which occurs though not in exactly the same way each time. What one poet thought when they wrote a poem will never be exactly the same as what the reader thinks of it. Yet isn’t that the magic of poetry, why we read poetry. We read it to be enlightened, to be invigorated. To push away from our current mindset, explore something even more enticing and emotionally groundbreaking. Poetry must continue to be read so that we continue exploring new ideas and discerning the meaning of seemingly normal concepts. It allows us to become better people, more in touch with our humanity.
An article by The Cut, ‘This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Read Poetry’, describes a feeling when reading poetry aloud known as the “pre-chill”. It is when you are reading a poem significantly evocative and meaningful and you subconsciously anticipate the emotional catharsis in the climax of the poem. Reading poetry is undeniably a pleasure of an entirely unique style and the effect that it has on you transcends the confines of its literary format. Poetry may be daunting at first, but once you’re absorbed in a world where nothing is as it seems, you will be forever changed. That is certainly for the better.
Psychology Today. 2019. Iain Thomas: Why Read Poetry? | Psychology Today Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/one-true-thing/201710/iain-thomas-why-read-poetry. [Accessed 21 October 2019]
pastemagazine.com. 2019. Why Read Poetry? Because It Can Make You More Empathetic — Paste. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/08/why-poetry-matthew-zapruder.html. [Accessed 23 October 2019]
ideas.ted.com. 2019. What’s the point of poetry? | . [ONLINE] Available at: https://ideas.ted.com/what-happens-when-we-read-poetry/. [Accessed 25 October 2019]
The Cut. 2019. This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Read Poetry — Science of Us. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thecut.com/2017/05/this-is-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-read-poetry.html. [Accessed 25 October 2019]
Family Friend Poems. 2019. Death Is Nothing At All By Henry Scott-Holland, Famous Death Poem. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/death-is-nothing-at-all-by-henry-scott-holland. [Accessed 22 October 2019]
In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden — Poems | poets.org. 2019. In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden — Poems | poets.org. [ONLINE] Available at: https://poets.org/poem/memory-w-b-yeats. [Accessed 25 October 2019]