What is poetry for?

What is poetry for? (text version)

What is poetry for? Each of us may have a different answer to this question, because we may use poetry for different things at different times. 

Some of my favourite answers to this question come from young people I’ve worked with. Here are a few, all by writers aged 11-13:

  • “Expressing your feelings and emotions with no regulations”
  • “Poetry is to express anything, like a story or a forest fenn or creepy curse”
  • “Sometimes I think poetry is for ourselves, for the writer more than the audience”
  • “Poetry is for entertaining people”
  • “I think poetry is for communicating and helping us to understand each other”
  • “Poetry is for people who want to speak out”
  • “I think poetry is about rhythm”

I love these answers. I use poetry for all these things at different times, as a writer, reader and listener. 

  • What is poetry for, for you? What would you like it to be for? 
  • Read over what you wrote. Is there one thing that seems most important to you right now, as a writer? Or is it all important?
  • From what you wrote, what seems most important to you as a reader/listener/watcher of poetry?

You might want to write up your favourite answers to this question and keep them in a place where you can see or reach for them often. 

I’ll finish with one of my favourite quotes from my students:

“Poetry is an art that comes through the ears and into the heart.”

For me, it’s often about music, about rhythm, and about connecting to someone else’s heart.