In January, Laura Boggess posted an article at The High Calling Blogs about poetry, and picked up quite a number of comments, including one that said the writer "didn't get" poetry, even though he was often told his writing was poetic. (I follow his blog, and his writing his poetic.) I responded with a longer-than-usual comment, and for some reason it's been on my mind, possibly because of the postings I've been doing at TweetSpeak Poetry on "Why Poetry Matters."
Here's what I said. I'd be interested to hear what you think.
Children seem to understand poetry better than adults. Somewhere along the line, maybe in high school English, we guys somehow got it into our heads that, at best, poetry was for pointy-head intellectuals, or really something that just girls read. I can even remember the audible groans in my high school senior English class (all boys) when the teacher informed us that we had to memorize — and recite in front of the class — a soliloquy from Shakespeare. And recite it like we were acting it! Oh, the horror, the humiliation. It was awful. We were seared with shame, but since the alternative was an F, we all did it. (I did Hamlet’s dagger speech — and I still remember it.)
I read poetry a lot more than I used to, and now I’m occasionally writing it (or trying to). And here’s why, I think: all good writing inherently contains poetry. All good writing (and speaking, too) contains rhythm, flow, and artful and purposeful use of language. It makes you think in a different way, understand something for the first time, or deepen your understanding. The poetic elements of all good writing are, I think, the essence, often hidden or disguised, of what makes the writing good.
A good poet extracts that essence, and shapes it, translates it, describes it, reveals it.
The Bible is filled with poetry. The Psalms are the most obvious, but also consider Mary’s song to the angel, or the Sermon on the Mount which sounds like a poem. Ecclesiastes. Song of Solomon. Or the Ten Commandments, which sound like poetic thunder (granted, that could be attributable to the Cecil B. DeMille movie). And the words of Jesus on the cross, taken together, comprise the most heartfelt, tragic poem in any language, a poem of horror, rejection, death — and even love.
Sometimes, I think, maybe more than sometimes, poetry is “God language.”