Why You (And Everyone Else) Should Read More Poetry
Many of us discovered poetry during mandatory school courses and our relationship with the genre ended swiftly after, never to be revisited again over the years. There’s this common misconception that poetry is in inaccessible art form, that it has to be understood to be enjoyed. But poetry is like singing — you don’t have to be good at it to do it or to enjoy it. Put simply: it’s good for the soul. That’s why today, we’re making an argument for why you (and everyone else) should read more poetry.
Why Read Poetry?
First of all, poetry is easy to incorporate into your daily schedule. A single poem doesn’t ask much of your time or attention. One Huffington post article describes how easy it is to consume poetry by saying, “You can flip through a book of poetry and eat the poems like popcorn.” In fact, you can even have the delectable treat of poetry delivered to your email daily by the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day or Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day.
Rather than being intimidated by the idea of interpreting poetry, let’s consider how many possibilities are offered in the act of interpretation. Poetry, as an abstract language, stretches our imagination and the boundaries of what words can do. It appeals to heart logic over brain logic. Poetry shakes off literal interpretations or concreteness… the idea that there is just one way of seeing. Mirroring this logic (or lack thereof), in most arguments on why you should read poetry, instead of choosing just one reason why, the arguments simply end on the open-ended question: “well, why not?”
The Impact of a Poem
Though, of course, poems can teach us new things and offer us a new perspective, much of the beauty lies in how a person uniquely relates to the poem. In the TEDTalk “What Happens When We Read Poetry” they purport that it is this reacting-to that makes poetry so meaningful: “Though a poem doesn’t make things happen, it happens — every time someone reads it. Rather than a static item printed on a page, a poem is an event that occurs with each new reader and with each new reading.”
Further exploring the idea of what happens when we read poetry, The Cut describes a study conducted in Germany where the bodily response to poetry was measured using a “goosecam” (which shows the movement of skin and arm hairs as people listen to poetry). Participants in the study were also told to press a button each time they got chills during the reading of a poem. 40% of participants physically showed goosebumps.
But even more, the neurological impacts (those not tracked by the goosecam, but by brain scans throughout the process) showed the impacts of the slow-building pleasure of listening to poetry. The study dubbed this phenomenon, the “pre-chill,” a sensation synonymous with the buildup and anticipation of unwrapping a chocolate candy bar. Before study participants ever pressed the button indicating they had been given chills by the poem, the pre-chill had already been occurring within them.
Poetry contributes to vibrant living. And the best part about poetry: there’s something for everyone. If one poem doesn’t stir pre-chills in your heart and goosebumps on your arms, the next one most likely will.