A few nights ago, Kevin and I were reading (well I was reading, he was watching sports re-plays on youtube) in bed, and I came across a poem I loved so much. I read it to him, as tears began welling in my eyes and he smiled at me, nodded and replied "I don't get it."
I understand that. I think poetry is one of the most misunderstood genres of writing and a lot of young people especially associate it with emo and mushy love poetry. It frustrates me, because poetry is my favorite genre of writing and it influences me more than any form of literature. Last night, still disturbed by the issue, I opened my favorite book "Good Poems for Hard Times" selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. I read the full intro, which is something I never do because the poems themselves I always felt deserved my full attention, but I think that Keillor's introduction is poetry in and of itself, and the entire time I read it I realized it was exactly what I wanted to say to Kevin, and to you, and to anyone who maybe misunderstands poetry or thinks it still needs to rhyme, or thinks it is only about love.
Here is what Keillor says, "Poetry is a necessity as simple as the need to be touched and similarly a need that is hard to enunciate... The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, pull up your socks, wake up and die right."
He continues, "But what really matters about poetry and what distinguishes poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesmen is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and thereby lending courage to strangers. This is a necessary thing."
"Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter - poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart."
Never have I read something more true, or inspired about poetry. Truly, Keillor's book is worth the $10.88 alone for the introduction. It inspired me to write real poems shamelessly. Because if we really understand poetry, we understand that the whole point is to give strangers, friends, loved ones, children - courage. And I think we could all use a little more of that.