I’ve been working on preparing a display for National Poetry Month in April. Preparation entails the usual: curate books from our collection to feature, select fonts and colours and images that will help the display stand out to our patrons: plan, gather, print, cut, and paste.
I often research and then become mildly obsessed with the topics of our larger displays. I want to really understand the topic (which, more often than not, I took for granted before researching for the display). Enthusiasm is contagious. First I find out about the topic and who it really matters to, then I attempt to understand those people better, get into their heads, so as to make it matter to me. Only then can I design a display that will (hopefully) make it matter to others who see it.
And so we come to the topic of poetry. My husband and I were discussing it the other day. Quite a few of the books in our library’s collection of poetry are rather aged and worn, hence the need to repair, replace jacket covers, and generally pretty them up for display next month. The age of these books got me wondering, what makes poetry matter to a modern audience, one that has instant gratification and entertainment at the touch of a screen, one caught up in the craziness of politics and pandemics and paranoia?
Poetry makes you think, I said. It demands time and attention to digest it, to ponder and consider its meaning. In our modern world, who really has time for that? Is poetry a dated art form, then?
My husband kind of caught me off guard when he suggested rap is a kind of poetry if you think about it. Since I’m used to associating rap with swearing, drugs, violence, and sex beat out at a mile a minute, I balked at the idea for a second.
Then I realized he was right.
Rap makes you feel. Even if the genre isn’t my cup of tea, it’s still an expression of intense emotion with specifically chosen words to trigger emotion in others. What is poetry if not that?
“Poetry is what we read when we want to feel something. It is music without a sound.”
It’s always been easy for me to get passionate about passion. I can love almost anything looking through that lens. I could probably be convinced to be a rap fan if someone passionate for it gushed about it to me. Passion is one of those things that make us so delightfully (and sometimes frustratingly) human. I love humans ?
I read somewhere that part of what makes poetry “poetry” is it’s stubborn refusal to be defined. If that is the case, poetry is humanity in verse. It’s made up of countless individuals. To generalize it is to do it a great disservice. It is every colour in the rainbow. It is good and evil and all the shades in between. It’s a glorious mosaic of all that we love and hate and win and lose and experience every day. It’s learning and growing and discovering something new; being challenged to stand firm for what we believe in and/or fly on the wings of growth and change.