Stuck in traffic on a Friday evening, I became frustrated and decided it would be better to pull off and wait it out at my favorite place: Barnes and Noble. This particular B&N is attached to a shopping mall, so it’s on the smaller side. After browsing the new releases, I headed straight to my favorite section: poetry.
It’s not to say I don’t enjoy other types of books. I’ve read many novels that I enjoyed thoroughly and was profoundly moved by. But what is it about poetry that captivates me so much? It’s hard to explain, but when I am reading it, I am transported to an entirely different world. One where everything slows down. One where I’m not required to put thought into anything if I don’t want to. I just begin reading and use my heart and feel and feel and feel.
Am I in the minority? It seems so. Once I arrived in the poetry section, I was disappointed to see how small it was. There are shelves upon shelves of fiction novels. You couldn’t possibly look through them all in a day. But poetry gets one little tiny shelf. In my mind, it should almost be reversed. For every 10 poetry books I read, I read maybe 1 novel.
What happened to the days when families gathered together on their front porch reading and contemplating Walt Whitman? (Think The Notebook.) Many years ago, everyone knew verses by heart to recite on demand. Ask the average high schooler now to recite their favorite poem and they’ll look at you like you just grew a second head.
Why do we need poetry? The same reason we need all art. The same reason we need culture. Think about your favorite piece of art. What does it mean to you? What does it do for you? What would your life be like if you had never been inspired by it? We are headed toward a world that will no longer be inspired by poetry. What could this do to the English language? I don’t want to find out.
Thankfully, we have authors like Rupi Kaur (I couldn’t write an article about poetry and not mention her now could I?) and Amanda Lovelace spearheading modern pop poetry. There are also organizations, like Australia based Byme Poetry, that encourage and enable writers to share their work with the world.
So, what can you and I do to ensure poetry does not meet its demise? Read it. Treat it like an endangered animal. Next time you go to the bookstore don’t just browse the 27 shelves of fiction novels; go to the poetry section. You may be surprised how much you like what you find.
Support local poets. Most cities have poetry slams and open mic events that are free. If you’re looking for a relaxing and fun evening out, consider attending one. If possible, compliment the poets on the pieces that inspired you.
Check out Amazon books. If you have one of their stores near you (lucky you), check out some of the self-published poets. Many poets self-publish with CreateSpace. There are not a lot of publishers eager to accept poetry manuscripts, so self-publishing is a great alternative. And Amazon is the place to find them. Some poets have become famous through self-publishing. Author Jennae Cecelia for example.
Support the poetry community on social media. Many poets reach their fame on Instagram and are then able to go on and publish books. It will be easy to find a style of work that you like and then follow the poet.
Try writing poetry! Gone are the days of strict rules for poetry writing. Think roses are red violets are blue. Writers are now encouraged to write what’s in their hearts. Write exactly what they are feeling. When I am writing a piece, I am not sitting there thinking hard about what I want to write. I write what’s in my soul; so the words pour and pour from my fingertips, smooth as brandy. You may find that it’s extremely therapeutic and cathartic.
Poetry may be a dying art form, but it is still far from dead. We still have time. Together, we can make the poetry section at Barnes and Noble grow.