This semester, I have had the pleasure of taking a class called “Poetry for the People.” The class has focused on doing just what the title implies – bringing poetry to the people and taking it outside of the classroom. I’ve been amazed to see not only my perspectives on poetry change, but the perspectives of those around me as well. By putting on a class poetry event, I learned that poetry can be fore everyone. By participating in a Car Window Poetry workshop, I, along with my classmates, put what we learned into action by bringing poetry to ordinary people on the street – or rather, to ordinary people’s cars in the parking lot.
As one of my projects for this class, I ventured out into my own community to hear what others had to say about poetry, and what it means to them.
“Poetry is an expression in writing that I can’t do anywhere else, or on another platform. I am a fiction writer – I can’t express my direct emotions, feelings, and reflections about the world around me,” Nicole, a fellow student and writer explained of her fictional musings. “It is really frustrating to try to write poetry – to be abstract, [use] lyricism. I can never get it quite right,” she admits.
Many people feel this way – that writing poetry is an almost insurmountable task. I know that many of my classmates, including me, felt this way entering in to “Poetry for the People.” Nicole added a more positive note, though, about poetry as well – explaining her admiration for poets who can so easily take pen to paper and create beautiful and artful poems, “it takes a different kind of writer to write poetry.”
One such writer is Mariya, author of Syntsi, “a collection of poetry that ranges from heartbreak to depression to love.” When I asked Mariya what poetry meant to her, she admitted that it meant so much that she could ramble on and on about it forever. Her final thoughts, though, emphasized how important poetry can be for a variety of meanings and why it means so much to so many people:
"Art can be viewed in many different shapes and sizes. For me, poetry is an art that has unbounded meaning. Poetry is such a surreal form of expressing your emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Writing has helped me heal from many wounds that were opened throughout my life. Later on, I realized that my writing held the opportunity to impact many people around the world who may have experienced the same circumstances that I have. From being published in the America Library of Poetry to winning multiple poetry slams, and even writing and publishing my own collection, poetry has allowed me to dip my pen into my arteries and write out the feelings that I hold in my heart. I have yet to put down that pen."
Not everyone I asked was as eager to talk about poetry. When I asked Shannon what poetry meant to her, her initial response was something along the lines of ‘nothing, I hate it.’ With some coaxing, though, Shannon ended up coming to conclusion that even though she’s not poetry’s biggest fan, there is beauty to this form of writing.
To some people like Mariya and Todd, a visual artist, songwriter, and musician, poetry is what they do. As a songwriter, Todd said that "poetry and songwriting is a way to express what cannot otherwise be expressed and to understand what cannot otherwise be understood." He explained that while some things can be understood with ordinary words, a poem or song makes that meaning even clearer. Poetry has a way of resonating with people on a deeper level.
I have found over the course of this semester that my love for poetry has grown more. I never despised poetry (on the contrary, I wrote an entire article about how great poetry is and why you should read it here). I’ve always admired the beauty of poetry, but I’ve done that from afar. I’ve dabbled in writing poetry – creative writing students at my school are required to take a class that focuses on each genre of writing, and I ended up with handful of my own poetic musing from that class during my sophomore year – but I’ve always felt like I wasn’t that good at writing poetry. I’m still not sure that I’m good at writing poetry, but I have come to enjoy writing it. I’m no longer a passive participant in the world of poetry but an active one, and I am grateful for that.
I will leave you with the words of Amber, who puts so beautifully what poetry means to her and, I think, what poetry means to so many others: “poetry to me is the self-expression of the soul's most intimate confessions.”
So what does poetry mean to you?
[A big thanks goes out to Nicole McConnell, Mariya Pinchuk, Shannon Lewis, Todd Vaters, and Amber Porter for being willing to be in my article this week!)]