Hi friends! I have an amazing friend, Victoria, who I have spent countless happy hours with discussing literature, writing, and movies. She writes an absolutely fantastic blog which you'll want to check out, and has greatly expanded my horizons on thinking deeply abut Christianity and classic literature. Very sweet and extremely smart, with a beautiful knack for writing poetry herself, she's sharing her thoughts on the importance of poetry with us on the blog today. Without further ado, I'll hand it over to her!
I feel like one thing so many young people nowadays are missing out on is poetry. We read novels and watch movies, and it ends there. But the truth is, poetry holds as much worth and meaning, if not more, than other forms of literature.
Let me get one thing straight. I haven’t always loved poetry with a burning passion. Fortunately throughout high school I have been blessed with teachers who have taught me to love it. And poetry definitely deserves more attention than it receives.
People call poetry crystallized thought, and that is exactly what it is. It is truth and emotion all packed into just a couple stanzas, and that is the beauty of it. People think they need a whole novel to show a theme to readers, but poets can do it in the space of several lines. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of my favorite poems.
“DoverBeach” is perhaps one poem which I love immensely. As you read the first stanza, can’t you just feel the rhythm and lull of the waves on Dover Beach? Can’t you just perfectly see the beach and and the night sky? Arnold achieves this vibrant this with only about fourteen short lines. Then he continues, telling us about Sophocles and his view of the world, and how on this evening we can understand him. And maybe that’s the reason why faith, in the next stanza is withdrawing, leaving us on the darkling plain that is in the last stanza. Thus in two-hundred and fifty-eight words, Arnold not only paints a picture of Dover Beach at night, but also laments (or informs us?) of his view of the world, even if it is a bit pessimistic, in my opinion. (Who am I kidding. It’s as pessimistic as it can get.)
William Wordsworth, in “The World is Too Much with Us,” plainly shows the worldview of the Romantics. With descriptions he makes us feel sympathy for nature we have neglected, and goes as far as to say that he’d rather be a pagan who appreciates nature than believe in God and not care about the sea and wind. Now isn’t that radical.
And honestly, not all poetry exactly holds with Christian worldview. However that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the great artists behind those poems. Also poetry is a fantastic way to understand the different worldviews in the different periods of time. The depression of the Great War poets. The disillusion of the modernists. But there is also poetry which points to God and has a more positive look on life.
George Herbert’s spiritual sonnets fascinate me. He develops a theme, and then uses only the last view lines or so to wrap it up shortly, but powerfully. Crystallized thought right there. “Redemption” especially shows this, as does “Love.” “The Altar” is also a really neat picture poem.
Even if not explicating a Christian element, many poets wrote about things from a Christian worldview. John Donne’s “Death Be NotProud” or Shakespeare’s Sonnet116. (Speaking of Shakespeare, our old pal, can we take a moment to appreciate how many sonnets he wrote? It’s ridiculous how hard it is writing in iambic pentameter.)
There’s also more personal poems like Langston Hughes’ “I, too, singAmerica” and Ben Johnson’s lament “On My First Daughter.” (He also has one on his first son, but I thought one is depressing enough.)
Also poems don’t necessarily have to be super deep or anything. We all know of Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky.” Also there’s Hilaire Belloc and his “On the Giftof a Book to a Child” (which I think most of us can agree with) and “Sarah Byng, Who Could Not Read and WasTossed Into a Thorny Hedge By a Bull.” (Face it. You want to read that one right now.)
If you want to explore even more poems than the ones I mentioned, the PoetryFoundation (which I’ve been referencing all this time) is a great place to start. There are also many collections you can buy; I personally own The Seashell Anthology of Poetry which has a very diverse collection, but I’m sure you can find other collections as well.
Poetry is hard. Every stanza, every line, every word has more meaning than it would in any other form of literature, and you have to slow down and think about what it means. And not only that, but you also have to slow down as ask yourself, is this poet’s worldview right?
But reading poetry is totally worth it. It develops your reading skills (and challenges your concentration skills), it makes you more discerning, it offers unique ways of viewing at the world, and it demonstrates the different worldviews of the centuries, and how man’s thought has developed. Because writing and literature throughout the centuries has been trying again and again to give people answers. Whether answers through logic and reason, nature and feelings, or despair and disillusionment, poets have been trying to give answers, but so much of it conflicts with the ideas of other centuries.
And yet through the fog of human effort to explain the world, the unshakable truth of God shines through. Even when we read poetry with ideas which does not agree with His word, we can still ask ourselves, nevertheless, how can I find Him through it? And when we read poetry which, even if subtly, points to God, we can draw closer to Him.
Before I end, I also want to challenge you to try writing poetry. You never know, you might actually have a knack for it. Here’s a resource with lots of resources for getting started: http://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-poetry.html
Free verse is the easiest to write, but it’s harder to be certain that how you’re writing it is truly meaningful. (If you want an example of a truly well-done free verse poem, check out T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”) I used to think that poems with a set meter and rhyme scheme restrain creativity, but then I realized that it’s the opposite. Rules can actually make you come up with more creative ways to say something. Thus I would suggest trying sonnets, even if they can be hard. And if all else fails, just try haikus. Anyone can write a haiku. All you need is three lines, first one five syllables, second seven syllables, and third five again. In fact, allow me to write one right now.
Much thanks to Schuyler
Hope you like poem ramblings
Do you like poems?
Victoria Marinov is a homeschooled teenager living in Texas. She has been writing stories since she was thirteen, but making them up in her head from long before that. She enjoys writing a poem now and then, and loves reading, swimming, and photography. She also prefers tea over coffee. He blog is at https://victoriam00.wordpress.com/.