I am majoring in English at the University I currently attend, and one thing I'm mainly excited about studying through my program is poetry. If you're like me and you enjoy poetry, then you most likely already know why it's important and why it should be written, read, and studied. If you're someone who always found poetry boring, or you were the person who always fell asleep while your high school English teacher read "The Raven," then I hope you understand the point I will be trying to make.
So why does poetry matter? Why should you read it and care about it at all? One reason is because it can touch different people in different ways. It doesn't matter if you're reading a poem by Poe or Dickinson about death or a poem by Shakespeare or Donne about love. There are plenty of different kinds of poems to appeal to people's different tastes. They are like genres of music, everyone has their preference. Some prefer the happier upbeat style, some prefer melancholic sounding tunes. Regardless of taste, there are plenty of poems for people to read.
Each poem can be interpreted differently. Just as all songs can be interpreted differently by the listener, poems may hold different meanings to different readers. What may make you feel happy and warm inside, might make me feel dark and sad. A certain line that strikes you as macabre I could find to be hopeful and vibrant. Of course, most poets have placed their own meanings onto and into their work, but of course, we as humans think of different ways we can relate with someone's art.
Reading and analyzing poetry can help you think more critically. It's not enough to take most poems, or works of art in general, at face value. When one reads a poem, they must think about what was going on when it was written; whether it be in the world or in the poet's life. They must think about what the poet meant in a certain line, and about what kind of message is being sent, if one is being sent at all. Studying Poe, Whitman, or Rilke in school wasn't a waste of time because it helped me understand the mind of another person, and helped me sympathize with their lives. When we think critically about poetry, we find out we have more in common with the poet than we thought.
Poetry, and all literature actually, is one of the best ways to understand the human condition. Think about it; you have all of these words, all of these voices telling you about love, pain, death, hope, heartbreak, anger, fear, and many more, and they give you a peak into what they thought and felt. Which helps you and I sympathize and relate with the way we think and feel. To understand your neighbor is to recognize your own humanity, and I think that's what makes many of the great poets so great; they understood themselves, and because of that, understood others.
Poetry will never die, it will only take different forms. Right now "slam/spoken word" poetry seem to be very popular. I myself am quite the fan of this genre and am working on some pieces I plan to perform. That's another great thing about poetry, anyone can write it. Granted, not everyone can write it well, but it is for everyone to participate in. Just as I believe all people should create art, I also believe all people should write. People will continue to write poetry and it will continue to evolve. I will continue to enjoy it, criticize it, and learn from it. I hope that you will do the same.