Many people who watched the 2021 Presidential Inauguration were particularity moved by the poem written and read by Young Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. A poet myself, I’ve often been asked why poetry is so moving. Here is what I usually say . . .
Poetry is the voice of the soul and heart, rather than the mind. When we write poetry, we free any thoughts that might have been bottled up inside. Poetry can be described as a snapshot written from the inside out. One of the many reasons why poetry is so powerful is that it offers insights into both the human psyche and human behavior. Poetry is also a place where the imagination can roam free.
Typically, a poem begins with an emotion, a feeling, or an image. Often, it shares a transformative moment or revelation, such as the poem by Amanda Gorman. Much of the impact of a poem comes from its delivery, and not only was Gorman’s poem powerful, but her delivery was spectacular. It’s not surprising to hear that she’d studied Winston Churchill’s speeches, and that certainly served her well.
Feelings, images, or ideas described in a poetic form are usually succinct, vivid, and intense. William Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. . . .”
A poem usually has a distinct rhythm. Regardless of the type or style of poem, poetry uses an economy of words; therefore, every word is important. The more specific the poem, the better. The best poetry inspires readers to reflect, dream, reminisce, observe, and fantasize. Poems are written in fragments, and each line should have a singular image and feeling.
Reading and writing poetry encourages a certain amount of interconnectedness and helps establish a sense of community between oneself and others. In other words, poetry can help us feel as if we’re part of a larger picture and not just living in our isolated little world. We learn that others have embarked on similar journeys and have similar feelings and sentiments.
As most writers and therapists know, writing and reading poetry can be a springboard for growth, healing, and transformation. When we read a good poem, we have the opportunity to be forever changed by the poet’s words and message. We tend to be most transformed by poems where the…