I’ve said some mighty cruel words about poetry in my adult life. Yet, as a 16-year-old, I wrote a lot of it. (What teen didn’t?) I was in love many times back then, and paper, pen, and poetry was my release. The thought of those verses today makes my face blaze. (Though I am fond of writing limericks!)
Lately, however, I’ve taken a few minutes in the mornings to read The Writer’s Almanac, which always begins with a poem. Usually, I skip the poems and jump into the writers’ birthdays. That has its dangers because it sends me down the online path to Amazon or Abe Books or to my corner bookstore.
The poetry in The Writer’s Almanac rarely attracts me. As a literalist, I believe people should say what they mean. “Quit talking in rhymes and verses!”
Compassion in poetry
Recently, however, I’ve taken the time to read the poetry, and I have appreciated it more. The other day, for example, the compassion in a poem written by Freya Manfred called “Grandma Shorba’s Ragamuffin Stew” pulled me in.
A week or so ago, a woman I admire—but never met—who has written for Gather magazine, sent me a poem about her struggle with alcohol addiction. I then realized the good of poetry. It can help people heal. It can help people process their muddled feelings. It can help their loved ones understand those feelings.
Sharing a poem you’ve written is courageous. You become vulnerable when you share your heart-felt emotions with friend or stranger. Now that we have a poet on our staff, I have to be more respectful of verse.
And so I leave you with a limerick that helps me see past my disdain of poetry.
There once was hater named Terri
Who believed a poem to be scary.
But as she matured,
She saw the allure,
And ill thoughts of the verse she did bury.
Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA. This blog’s title is the modern translation of the first line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 140.
Photo by Kevin Hong of Shakespeare’s “Sonnets and a Lover’s Complaint,” used with permission from Creative Commons.