“That’s why they make children learn them [poems] in school. They don’t want them messing about with them on their own. I mean, just imagine if a sonnet went off accidentally. Boom.”
– Sylvia, ‘Sylvia‘ (2003)
“Well, anyone can write a poem, can’t they?” is a question I often hear when I say i’d like to pursue writing poetry. The argument whether or not poetry is important, or whether or not we should consider it to be is subjective. Though we poetry lovers can only try to convince people of it’s importance on a day like ‘World Poetry Day’.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the 21st of March to be ‘World Poetry Day’ most importantly to support diverse linguistic expression and to offer the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.
Though, this day is also to illuminate not only the value poetry brings but also the importance of teaching poetry. More than often, poetry is considered to be ‘outdated’ as people usually associate poetry with the poems they found “tedious” and “boring” to learn in school. Poetry seems to be making a come back from my perspective, especially with the digital age Instagram poets such as Rupi Kaur and Orion Carloto on the rise. Not to mention the famed spoken word videos.
This is the kind of day to express the value of poetry. As, it is such a great outlet that can be used by abundant diverse voices to be heard. With several forms and rhythms, different languages and lengths one may quickly be able to understand a voice different to their own if they are just patient enough to read a few lines. Often deemed a weapon, and unsurprisingly so, a poem can change our mood whether it be in a literature class or perhaps as we are scrolling through our social media feeds. More than anything, there is a sense of freedom when creating poetry. When we are younger in our literature classes some of us may often wonder “why is our teacher putting so much of an emphasis on how this writer has structured the poem?” interpreting poetry can make us connect with our inner voice. The way we interpret a poem differently to somebody else alone arguably illustrates its power. And, we often forget that poetry exists in the songs we listen to.
Poetry, for some, not only serves as a means of entertainment, it serves as a way of surviving. In an interview with BBC Arts Samantha Morton said that poetry was her “salvation” and that if it wasn’t for poetry she thought she would have “gone mad” or “self-harmed” when she was in care as a child. That it was a way of her being able to write down her thoughts “in code” so that nobody but herself could understand them. Poetry can resonate. It can be on a day such as today that we can reflect on the fact that poetry is perhaps more than what many people perceive it to be: “outdated”, “old-fashioned”, “pointless” and “boring”. Poetry offers us not only language we can relate to, but sometimes it gives us with language a rhythm that can resonate with us for years. For example, ‘Poppies In July’ by Sylvia Plath has resonated with me since I was thirteen, each year it’s meaning changes as I grow and my mind adapts. Poetry can grow with us.
Percy Byssche Shelley in his work ‘A Defense of Poetry’ wrote that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” and that “a single word may be a spark of inextinguishable thought” – perhaps this man has a point. After all, many of us have been raised poetry to help us learn through nursery rhymes. As we age we many realise and understand that poetry can be a medium for social protest, and that it can be revolutionary if we let it. Reading and writing poetry allows us to see what others see and perhaps get an insight into what we truly see ourselves.