8 Reasons Poetry Still Matters Today

Katelynn Richardson
5 min readApr 4, 2020

Poetry is one of those things that you either love, hate, or find hopelessly confusing.

To some, it’s just not practical. Things are explained so much quicker and clearer in plain language. To others, it’s nursery rhymes and songs-something you outgrow with time. For many, it triggers flashbacks to painful English classes spent dissecting lines and struggling to get the “right” answer.

But poetry is so much more than rhyme schemes and convoluted metaphors. It’s a way of thinking, a way to convey the thoughts and feelings that can’t be said any other way.

Here are eight reasons people still need poetry today:

1. It helps you appreciate little things.

Details that go unnoticed can be captured in a poem. William Carlos Williams is one poet that did this often. His poems are simple, using plain language and often just a few lines. Still, they manage to evoke strong images, like in the poem “ To a Poor Old Woman “:

munching a plum on 
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand
They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her
You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand
Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

2. It improves your understanding of language.

From a practical standpoint, the best reason for writing poetry is to make your other writing better. Poetry teaches how to be creative in expression, helps you develop a deeper understanding of language, and grows your ability to see how ideas fit together.

In poetry, there are no wasted words. Every choice is made with intention, with careful consideration for the rhythm, rhyming, patterns, mood, and message of the piece. This kind of attention to detail goes a long way in improving writing in other areas.

Using filler words and including unnecessary details is a sure way to distract readers and decrease the chance your message makes an impact. The skill of concise writing you learn from poetry serves you well in every other kind

3. It makes you stop and think.

Our lives move so fast. Poetry is an opportunity to slow down and reflect.

There’s a reason poetry makes up almost a third of the Bible. While it can be harder to understand, it’s the kind of writing that isn’t meant to be understood all at once, but over time through many readings.

I find it incredible that God chose to reveal parts of his word through poetry. The songs of worship, prayer, and emotion in the Psalms are so powerful to read.

Reading Psalm 91, I can always feel comforted:

He will cover you with his pinions, 
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Reading Psalm 22, my understanding of the suffering Messiah is deepened:

I am poured out like water, 
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Sometimes we do need direct communication in the form of prose. Other, times the best way to understand is through poetry.

4. It lets you explore life through another lens.

Unraveling the meaning behind a metaphor is exciting. It can open up all sorts of new ways of seeing things.

Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”does this well. The speaker takes something familiar, a summer’s day, and lists off negative qualities to show their loved one is better.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

5. It helps you better understand your own thoughts.

Writing poetry forces you to condense what you are thinking and feeling to express it creatively on a page. The challenge of the form requires focused attention.

It also gives you the freedom to explore. There’s more leeway to play around with things like pacing, sentence structure, and story.

Reading poetry can also help you understand thoughts. In a poem somebody else wrote, you might find the words for something you could never explain yourself, or a powerful metaphor that helps you make sense of your own feelings.

6. It gives words to the inexpressible.

Sometimes an idea simply can’t be captured by plain language. Poems tend to gravitate towards topics like life, hope, wisdom, and love — concepts that are hard to comprehend.

I really like “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson, and I think it’s a good example of saying something hard to explain.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

The Road Not Taken ” by Robert Frost describes the difficulty in making a choice. It’s another classic example.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

7. It helps you make connections to big ideas.

As Aristotle said in Poetics, “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.”

The best poetry is timeless. A reader today can pick up something written two hundred years ago and catch glimpses themselves.

It reminds us that throughout time, even though eras and culture change, the concerns of everyday people are always the same. These enduring themes that run through all of literature can help us put life into perspective.

8. It’s fun!

Poetry takes the dull and boring and makes it bright and colorful. It’s a place where the imagination can run wild.

Even if you’re not the kind to spend hours in the library analyzing poetry, think Shakespeare is overrated, and found none of the previous reasons convincing-you can still enjoy poetry. In fact, if you listen to music, you probably already do.

Try something lighthearted, like Smart by Shel Silversteen or Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Or, pick up a pen and try writing one for yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you might enjoy it more than you expect!

Originally published at https://storiesandstarlight.com on April 4, 2020.

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Katelynn Richardson

Writer, poet, bibliophile, & sticky note addict. Lending my pen to stories on Christian apologetics, philosophy, and culture. https://storiesandstarlight.com