Where’s the love for poetry? Verse forms a baby’s first love of language through nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss’s couplets. Outside of music, wordplay and poetic expression soon go gentle into that goodnight—rarely to be roused again.
How does this light die? First, we fail to extol the virtues of poetic word craft. Local news stations in more literate cultures report what poets are up to; the elevated value of poetic activity is a given. Second, we privilege a limited use of language for its immediate utilitarian function. This blinds us from the power of words to wield new worlds while probing the mysteries of existence, suffering, and pleasure.
A well-crafted poem can be a hydrogen bomb of woven meanings waiting to ignite with intellectual and emotional discovery. It prods the mind to work through difficult concepts and to pose good questions, essential habits for thinkers in a changing world. Further, as children know, good verse instructs while delighting—delivering aesthetic morsels for hungry minds.
In my literature courses for working adults, students are grateful for the rewards, but angry to have turned 50 before discovering them. Our culture should put more faith in the power of verse to train the mind, cleanse the doors of perception, and nourish the soul.
I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.