Why I Prefer Writing and Reading Poetry over Other Mediums
I’ve had a long-term love affair with poetry and writing about travel, philosophy and science fiction. Despite this, I frequently find the process of creating poetry to be by far the most enjoyable. I also relish reading it and I know I’m not the only one. Everyone is different, after all, but when I really think about it, I can see many reasons why poetry is a preferred medium of creative expression for many people. I wanted to share some of those reasons with you.
Poetry is like music
Good poetry flows. It should enter the senses like music, effortlessly, without the reader having to concentrate on the reading of it. Each line should flow on to the next. When read in this relaxed and open way, the full power of the words can wash over you or hit you like a sledgehammer.
There is, of course, a lot of variety in poetry but as a general rule, it is succinct and evocative with its flowery use of words, poetic form and ambiguity. Like music, it is often left open for the reader to interpret, offering little more than vague hints or comparisons to bypass our cultural shields and penetrate the heart.
Akin to music, poetry can take you on a journey through time; sometimes backwards to a nostalgic memory, sometimes to the future, and sometimes to the backseat of your mind where you can lose yourself in the imaginings of an alternate world or reality.
Poetry does not push an agenda
The underlying message of a poem, if there is one, is abstract. It makes no solid assertions and therefore the reader does not feel like they are forced to take sides, like with other written mediums. They can take the words and contents in their own way.
Poetry doesn’t try to persuade or force an agenda, directly. It does not try to rationalise or build a concrete argument. Rather, it tries to tell a story from a unique perspective and therefore it is incredibly powerful in delivering its ultimate message or musing.
The poet tries to sweep past the reader’s conditioned mental barriers by injecting an idea through an emotional barb or a clever use of words or form. It does not try to preach or pronounce judgements about the state of the world according to the poet’s point of view. The poet cares less about whether you see things the way they do and more about whether it has allowed you to connect on an emotional level. Any ricocheted effects on the reader’s worldview are secondary.
Poetry is punchy
Rarely do you feel that by reading a poem, you have wasted your time. It is a succinct method of transmitting thoughts and feelings to a reader. It is often short, powerful, and punchy but sometimes it is longer with more emphasis on the storytelling aspect or the form, but it almost always flows towards a dramatic conclusion.
I believe lengthier poems are less popular today due to the reduced attention span of modern humans in the information age, but they are still written by the most skilled and renowned poets of our era.
Poetry can stand the test of time
Poetry can live on through the ages, in the form of a quoted line or verse. Just think about Dylan Thomas’s emphatic line from Do not go gentle into that good night, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, which has been quoted innumerably in film, television, and at events and festivals across the world.
Primarily, poetry is about dealing with human emotion and appealing to our collective ability to empathise which largely stays the same despite huge changes in context. We still use many famous proverbs from ancient texts written in poetic form, from thousands of years ago.
The worst thing you can say about poetry is that it is pretentious and sometimes it is, but mainly to the people who can’t appreciate it and feel affronted by a written form they aren’t accustomed to
Poetry is fun
Poetry as a creative medium is accessible to almost everyone. You do not need to be a linguist or have a degree in journalism to play with words and rhyme, as many world-famous rappers from impoverished neighbourhoods have proven time and time again. It is a surprise to some, that poetry can be mathematical in nature. Numbers play a small part in the structuring of stanzas, rhyming, and syllable counting short verse forms such as the haiku etc.
In centuries past, the confines of form were much stricter which meant that writing poetry and getting published was largely left to the well-heeled well-educated upper classes of society. Fortunately, poetry today is relatively open and diverse which has enabled it to become an effective mode of communication for many.