Amanda McHugh ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Expressing what one feels is one of the most challenging aspects of life. Humans have tried all different forms of expressing emotion, like music, art, dance, and writing. It’s hard to convey what someone is feeling because emotion, after all, is a feeling. Not a word or a song. Something that has helped humans be able to express emotion effectively is poetry.
The Academy of American Poets deemed April National Poetry Month in 1996. It is the largest literary celebration in the world, as schools, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrate reading poetry. Many people tend to shy away from poetry because it can be complicated and dense. However, that is the beauty within poetry—being able to unpack the words and listen to their meaning. Poetry differs from short stories and novels in this sense. The story within poetry is concise and dense. It cuts to the core of emotion and passion. There are countless types of poetry, ranging from Shakespeare’s sonnets, villanelles, haikus to free verse, narrative, and spoken word poetry. Each structure is unique and used in various ways.
Poetry lets people express themselves in creative ways. It’s an outlet for inner thoughts and emotions. Poetry is important to our society because throughout the years, we can learn about people in their time period. We learn about the human struggles of pain, heartache, death, life, and more. It’s difficult to put abstract thoughts and ideas, like death and time, into words. But poetry gives us a chance to understand these concepts. It’s an outlet to ponder thoughts and express emotion that we have no other way of expressing.
We read Sylvia Plath and learn how she struggled as a female writer married to a male writer. Her poems unravel the haunting truth about depression, but also the mystery of love. Edgar Allen Poe taught us that mental illnesses come in all different forms, and it’s better to express emotions rather than bottle them up. We learn about people and their struggles, and often we can relate. Emily Dickinson and her poem If You Were Coming in Fall outline the anxiety people have when they are in unrequited love. This is a feeling many people often feel, and they can relate to it. Many other poems help people understand their emotions and feelings as well.
National Poetry Month also highlights some of the great poets we have today. Richard Blanco, historical inaugural poet, has multiple published books and a book all about his inaugural poem, One Today. He is the first Latino LGBT poet to read at the inauguration. In addition, he is considered one of the most influential poets of our time because of the way he “taps into our unspoken dreams, hopes, and frustrations.” Ann Carson, Canadian poet and essayist, is another contemporary poet who is also a professor in the classics. Joyce Carol Oates, who now teaches at Princeton University, is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. She has published over forty novels, as well other novellas and books of poetry. Other poets to keep an eye out for are Louise Gleck, Jeffery McDaniel, Mark Doty, and Claudia Emerson.
Another form of poetry that is becoming more popular is slam poetry. Slam poetry is spoken word poetry told with strong emotion. It became popular in the 1980s when Marc Smith spoke his poem at the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago. Since then it has grown and changed, and is often popular among young writers. Especially in college settings, slam poetry is a way for students to express what they feel in a safe place. Moreover, the National Poetry Slam has annual competitions for people to compete and spread their poetry. Most recently, Janae Johnson won the Women of the World Poetry Slam of 2015. Taylor Mali, Beau Sia, and Alix Olson, are famous for their spoken word poetry touching on controversial topics such as homophobia, racial stereotypes, and societal hypocrisy.
Poetry is something that has always been all around us, and will continue to be written for years to come. It’s the love of combining different words to convey an irrational emotion that humans cannot comprehend. People take out their emotions in all different types of creative outlets, and poetry is one that is enjoyed and loved by many people.