Harrison Middleton University

The Power of Poetry

The Power of Poetry

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.

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April 12, 2024

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

Seeing that April is National Poetry Month, and poetry is one of my lifelong loves, I wanted to spend a few moments to share my experience. From songs and music, to rhyme and meter, I love it all. But people often ask me what I get out of poetry, what it does for me. So, today’s blog is a little nod to a discipline and art form that I have wrestled with for years.

First and foremost, poetry gives me a community. I receive this in other ways, of course. I participate with a number of different groups (some of which overlap), but the poetry groups that surround me offer excellent listeners.

This brings me to the next item in my list: listening skills. As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, listening may be our most important human skill. It takes work and some embarrassing or awkward or misunderstood moments, but listening skills are what make us human. Communication, connection, collaboration, all of these things stem from listening. Poets attend to the world in a wide variety of ways which inform their interactions and worldviews. In trying to understand the linguistic connections that they make, I have, hopefully, enriched my own metaphoric reach. Metaphors feed human cravings, such as solving puzzles, making meaning, and finding insight. In other words, I broaden my own worldview one poem at a time simply by listening.

Speaking of metaphor, poetry brings language to life. Whether devoted to the daily and mundane, esoteric or ancient, words and rhythms draw me in. In addition to learning new words, I learn rhyme schemes. Sometimes a poem uses natural language and sometimes the poet finds words outside my lexicon. Either way, I know the choices made were done with intention and purpose and it is up to me to find meaning. In other words, poems draw on the reader’s imagination. And I love that. The poet’s craft leaves room for ambiguity, for reader interpretation, for new connections.

These created connections between author and reader mean that poetry is also incredibly diverse. Voices from all across the globe listen, sing, participate, and connect. Imagine the way a single poem by Frost or Dickinson or Poe or Angelou or Ginsberg (or anyone else that comes to mind) sneaks into the cultural consciousness. Think about the way that a poem soothes and comforts during times of personal, national, or international stress. If one person accesses a new image, fantastic. But imagine when an entire community does. This is how we make leaps into new realms. The language of our everyday begins with metaphor. Humans stretch language to find fitting images for new concepts. Think of the metaphors attached to these technological innovations: the web, interface, scroll bar, or a mouse. They work because the new idea assumes some major connections with the old.

Though there are more reasons to share, I’ll stop there. As is fitting, I will close with a poem about unlikely connections. Howard Nemerov’s “Hidden Figures” brings to life the subject of this blog. You can also click on this link to access the full poem and a reading by Krista Tippett.

“How secret that is, and how privileged
One feels to find the same necessity
Ciphered in forms diverse and otherwise
Without kinship — that is the beautiful
In Nature as in art, not obvious,
Not inaccessible, but just between.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock/ Vitalii Stock

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