I have often felt isolated as an English-speaking poet in Korea. Although I am fluent at Korean, I lack the ability to comprehend Korean poetry, which closes me off from local poetry communities. For many of my classmates, poetry is a dreaded subject at school—a den of stress, especially when we are assigned to write our own poems. I have been able to find a small cluster of people who appreciate poetry, but the search has been difficult because poetry is not a popular pursuit in Korea.
Although I would have pursued poetry even without reading Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views, the book opened my eyes to how poetry can impact lives. I knew how poetry had impacted my life (poetry has given me deep solace, renewed my perspective on life many times, and allowed me to pay close attention to word choice and structure), but what about for others? I was curious to see how people in the larger scope of the world have used poetry to deepen their worldview.
Ranging from actors, news reporters to doctors, Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views is a comprehensive review of how poetry has impacted lives from different fields across the world. From reading, I have not only been exposed to many new authors and poems, but have also absorbed new ways to see poetry.
I noticed that many contributors compared poetry to a “song” or a communication of emotion in the rawest form. One contributor, actress Lili Taylor, even mentions how “If poems are about emotions, then that is the language I need to use when I’m reading them.” Another revelation I received from my reading was that poetry has the ability to transcend our world, or “say the unsayable.” Economics professor Stephen T. Ziliak writes that “poetry can fill the gap between reason and emotion, adding feeling to economics” and explains how he utilizes poetry to teach economic concepts. Surprisingly, poetry is even used to prepare West Point military trainees for the real world and challenge their perspectives on life as “poetry isn’t just a way of writing, it’s a way of thinking.”
Beyond the fact that this book is a celebration of poetry, the book is essentially filled with 50 unique stories, journeys, and personal details that you may not find in another book. By reading this book, you will engage yourself with the minds of 50 brilliant people who have equally as brilliant narratives. From stories about an exiled father in the Cultural Revolution to a Polish who survived concentration camps during World War I, these narratives are powerful in their own sense. But keep in mind, you do not need to have a crazy life to enjoy poetry.
In the introduction of Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views, Don Share, the editor, writes “Poetry in daily life may seem an extravagant thought… there’s a noble and appealingly romantic sense that poetry is something elevated… that poetry today is written so that nobody can understand it, except maybe other poets… but poetry is in the same room with us, whether we know it or not, as the pages that follow show.” As such, I fear that whenever a teacher introduces the Epic of Gilgamesh or an obscure piece of poetry that seems far off from student life, the poetic world of a student may cease to exist. In writing this book review, I hope that readers may renew their minds about poetry and allow poetry to actively impact their lives. As a result of reading Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views, I have been able to validate some of my own doubts about poetry and understand how I can truly make a difference in the world through my writing. After all, poetry is meant to be shared and spark connections between people.
Featured Image via Poetry Foundation