I believe in poetry.
In a world of socially-appropriate behavior and politically correct language, poetry affords us the opportunity to be larger-than-life, to react with our hearts instead of our brains.
As we grow up, we learn to quell emotion in favor of logic; we learn to say the right thing instead of the true thing – the thing that, sometimes, really needs to be said.
Poetry allows us space for pure feeling. It swells our hearts and quiets our minds, and even if we don’t fully understand the poem, even if we don’t totally “get it,” we’re still aware of how it makes us feel, of what really moves us.
I know that my tendencies—to speak from my heart and base my decisions on feelings rather than research—aren’t exactly professional. As a copywriter for an international company, I’ve learned to mute myself a bit, to temper my speech and go with the flow, even if I don’t always agree with it.
But even though that behavior is appropriate and enables me to keep a job, it’s inauthentic, and as soon as I click on the Writer’s Almanac webpage (a frequent workplace distraction) or open a volume of poetry, I feel the real me rush back in.
Poets, at least the ones I love, approach subjects with the passion and zeal usually reserved for fundamentalist preachers and golden retriever puppies. We’re so lucky, as an audience, to be alive in the age of such poets—in the age of Mark Doty and Billy Collins, who treat the mundane with the reverence of ceremony, who write of small tasks in big voices.
There is magic, they tell us, in painting walls and shoveling snow.
I would personally thank Stanley Kunitz, if he were still alive, for reminding us of the tenderness of love, of the inevitability of connections with other people.
In stead, I’ll go to work tomorrow and act like the mid-level professional I am. I’ll politely listen in meetings, and make only minor, innocuous suggestions.
I will not hug people, even if they look like all they need in the world is for someone to reach out and remind them they’re not alone.
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