Poetry in Contemporary Society

By Moira G Gallaga

In this ever-changing 21st century, with all its rapid technological advances, we tend to take in information in short blasts. We read emails and text messages quickly, surf the web, often in haste, flitting from page to page via links. We also tend to read fewer newspapers, magazines and longer articles of substance.

We’re a society of channel surfers, with hundreds upon hundreds of diverse specialty channels beamed into our living rooms via cable and satellite. We watch a little of this, a little of that, all the while having our thought processes interrupted by often inane commercials designed to convince us to buy something we may or may not need.

When it comes to outright reading and critical thinking for any extended period of time, we seem to be moving away from that more and more as well. When’s the last time you really sat down to enjoy a well-written novel of literary substance?

Have you recently taken the time to read a quality book of short stories from an insightful writer? In addition, when is the last time you read a book of poetry, whether a classic anthology or a more modern tome by a contemporary poet or a compilation of poets?

Consider poetry – it is concise writing meant to enlighten, entertain, and provoke deep thought. Poetry is meant to be read – then reread, then reread again. When done well, a poem can resonate for years with a person, something they turn to again and again for comfort, pleasure, knowledge, and inspiration.

It was eminent poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) who said, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” The beauty of the words and the order of the words lead to discovery, which makes the reading of poetry truly a worthwhile endeavour.

Here are five reasons why poetry matters:

We Strengthen Our Reading, Speaking, and Writing Skills

First off, reading good poetry rubs off on us, usually without us even realizing it. Reading it causes us to absorb the rhythms, cadences, and nuances of words, phrases, and sentences. The more we read quality poetry the more we develop an elegant way with words, along with a storehouse of words.

This manifests itself in the quality of our own reading, speaking, and writing. The more we read fine poetry, the more adept we become with using language.

We Learn to See Life through the Eyes of Others

Sometimes it’s nice to get another perspective on a subject. Reading well-ordered words by a poet lets us into their world. We learn to consider other viewpoints, opinions and arguments, all the while getting these in the form of stylish writings. It’s a way to experience different trains of thought, while enjoying the creative work on its own merit at the same time.

We Gain an Appreciation of Language and How it Works

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) said, “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” A poem, of course, reads different than an article, a story, or a newspaper piece. While those kinds of writings can flow and have a grace and beauty of their own, according to their structure, a poem is different. Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “Poetry: the best words in the best order.” A poem is truly that – a concise and precise way of presenting intellectual and heartfelt thought in its essence.

We Learn to Take Time

Poetry, like all good literary writing demands our attention. It demands we sit down and invest time in the act of reading, and then in the act of meditating on and pondering what we have just read. Again, it demands rereading as well, so we are certain to glean the intended meaning of the poem more fully.

We do quality writing no justice when we treat it like the “fast food” type of information we’re bombarded with each day. That’s why poetry should be read in a quiet room with no distractions, in book form, words on paper that we can touch and feel as we read.

We Awaken the Creativity within Ourselves

Reading a poem can often inspire one to try his or her hand at writing one themselves. This starts the creative process rolling where the individual begins to put his or her thoughts and feelings into words, organized logically. This creativity spurs critical thinking and helps us understand ourselves and the world around us better as we explore a topic in-depth.

A poem can also inspire one towards other creative tasks. A person may not write a poem, but the poem they read may inspire them to indulge in a craft, painting, to pick up a musical instrument, sculpt, or pursue photography or some other creative activity. Appreciating creative poetry can spur other fine creative activities.

Make the reading of poetry a part of your life. It is a soothing respite from our often chaotic and hurried lifestyles. Set aside a time each week in a quiet room – just you and that book of verse, formal or free, and indulge. You will find you unwind gracefully as the words, rhymes, and meter, rhythm, and flow of phrases combine to tell a story or highlight an aspect of life. Poetry makes us slow down and think, and that can only contribute to our growth as reasoning individuals.

Moira G. Gallaga, recently resigned civil servant from the Foreign Service. Specialized in Protocol and served 3 Philippine Presidents as Presidential Protocol Officer. Had the opportunity to travel extensively as part of her work and the privilege of discovering and exploring new places, cultures and peoples. Also assigned along with her diplomat husband and son in Phil Consulate General in Los Angeles and Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. for 3 years and 3 and a half years, respectively.

Enjoys reading books, trying out new cuisines, fashion, yoga, scuba diving (PADI Rescue diver), football (soccer), biking in the countryside, and the beach, among other things.

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