Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Need Poetry

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Ted Kooser, the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States, and Terrance Hayes read their poetry at a Grand Valley State University function. And in a time when reality T.V. stars and even YA authors grace the covers of magazines, it was nice to find a moment and place where poetry was valued. Not just that but also seen as valuable. 

There were Terrance Hayes groupies in t-shirts and a line afterward to have books signed by Ted Kooser. I can say that I didn't love every poem, in fact there were ones I didn't like, and ones I didn't understand. The point is there were ones I liked, ones I loved, and some that moved me to tears. 

Terrance Hayes 
Ted Kooser believes that poetry makes us better people, and has started a column that is syndicated in major newspapers and online publications. It's called American Life in Poetry. You can even sign up for a weekly poem.

Ted Kooser
But so what? What's the big deal with poetry?

I believe that poetry makes a good writer great. It can challenge you.
You try telling a story with a plot arc in just a few lines in a way that makes people want to keep reading.

I am on my poetry soapbox and you are never getting me down. Because it has changed my life. Even as I write this, I can see myself on a poetry infomercial. But it really has. It has allowed me to process emotions that I thought were untouchable. And it has made me a much better writer.  

One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Harrison: "Poetry, just like painting, is something that you have to give your entire life to -- and that includes all of your life."

I am not asking you to give up everything for poetry but maybe give it a second look and see some value in it.

Find a poem you like, just one, and rewrite it. Use some of the words, none of the words, but really sit with it for a few minutes. Read it a couple times. Circle what you like about it. Write about why you like it. And then allow yourself to rewrite it.

Regina Gort


  1. Congrats to Thanhha Lai for the National Book Award for her verse novel, Inside Out & Back Again.

    A beautiful piece of work that spoke to me in poetry.

  2. Love your post and love you, Gina!! It's too true that poetry makes us better writers.

  3. Great post, Gina! My mom was a poet, & poems were my first writing vehicle. I think once you write poems, your prose tends to be lyrical. It's a win/win.

  4. I am a HUGE poetry fan and love novels in verse and lyrical writing in books. I loved this line, esp.: "I believe that poetry makes a good writer great. It can challenge you." AGREED!

  5. Okay, okay, I'll read more poetry. :-)