To be honest…with Sydney Bass

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To be honest, poetry is so underappreciated in today’s culture. People call out poetry for being boring or confusing. Poetry gets viewed as an unsolvable puzzle instead of an exciting riddle.

I attribute this opinion to standardized education that makes students track rhyme scheme or forces them to dissect a poem like a timed surgery. No one is able to enjoy anything when it’s forced upon them. In elementary school, students were forced to write haikus about mundane activities. In middle school, they were forced to write short poems about who they are when they didn’t even fully know that answer. Then, to make it worse they were exposed to Shakespearean poetry. Personally, I’m obsessed with Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, but that’s because I had a great English teacher who exposed the true meaning behind his poems and didn’t just track the iambic pentameter in every line. Students have learned to rely on Sparknotes for interpretations instead of interpreting the poem by themselves. They look for the single “right” answer instead of understanding that poetry has many “right” answers and interpretations.

Once someone understands that poetry is filled with many different interpretations, they can view the true world of poetry.

Poems tend to hold insights into the world around you if one would only focus and read them, especially since every single word in a poem is intentional. The intentionality of poetry is what I enjoy the most. The use of words to communicate emotion is completely beautiful. Every word used is loaded with connotative meaning that can evoke something different in each reader.

Poetry can be used to communicate ideas and expand view points. A single poem can open the reader’s eyes to a viewpoint they never considered. It also brings up feelings in the reader. The reader, then, can relate and communicate to someone they may have never even met.  Poetry can open a whole new world of feelings and possibilities for someone new to the subject.

In order to start appreciating poetry, people must go deep into poems. They should analyze context, diction and syntax. These terms may seem stuffy, but dissecting the poem in this way can reveal hidden meanings that a reader may not ever notice. By doing this, a reader can reread a poem 100 times and find something new each read.

A common question poets often ask each other is, “Is Poetry dead?” I believe poetry is viewed as “dead” because no one knows of the other side of poetry. They think of poetry only in terms of old Victorian writings.

But, slowly, poetry is becoming more mainstream, mostly in “Instagram poetry,” like “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. This collect speaks about break ups and abuse, which are super current and important topics. It’s super relatable for anyone who’s going through a hard time, so I understand why teens seem to love it, but this book has turned more into a symbol than an appreciated work of poems. I see “Milk and Honey” posts all over social media, but it is never actually analyzed for its content exclusively. These poems are filled with cliches about breakups and hard times, but many people love them because they aren’t exposed to any other poetry. I’m not saying that this poetry is bad. It’s a great place to start. But in order to appreciate poetry truly, one must dive deep into a variety of works. I truly love how this poetry helps people get through struggling times, but I would hope this isn’t the only poetry people read nowadays. I have come to appreciate “Instagram poetry” because it keeps this amazing art form alive.

I would love, though, to see more varieties of poetry appreciated by many different groups of people. There’s a vast world of poetry out there just waiting for an interested reader. Poetry can be written about really anything, so there’s something for everyone. Appreciation and revival of poetry will take time, but I hope that people will start to give poetry a second chance. They would be pleasantly surprised with what they found.

Photo by Christina Kirk.

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