Why Read Poems

I’ve written before about how poetry gets a bad rap, which is so sad, because the reading of poetry can be such a pleasure. And it’s good for the brain, as noted here.

Toward that end, here are several poems that swirled into my consciousness recently, poems that come with this warning: they are so beautiful and moving that you may find yourself with tears in your eyes. Or you may not. Maybe I’m overly susceptible, and my emotions swim close to the surface.

My daughter Erin, herself a poet, told me to read this one: “Mermaid Song” by Kim Addonizio.

The fabulous Stephanie, who leads my fabulous writers’ group, told me of this one: “A Blessing” by James Wright.

This one, a longtime favorite, came up in conversation at said fabulous writers’ group: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop.

Another favorite, this one also came up in conversation at said fabulous writers’ group: “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon.

When my daughters were little, I often read poetry to them at bedtime. I didn’t always read them poetry specifically written for children, but I did pick poems with rhythm and patterns of rhyme that I thought they would like, such as “Sea Fever” by John Masefield and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. Some of the poems just seemed fun for them: “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye. And then sometimes I did read them children’s poetry: “Where Go the Boats?” by Robert Louis Stevenson is a poem that we all loved.

And here is Mary Oliver reading “Wild Geese.”

Why read poems? Because they’re there. Because we can. Because it’s fun. Because it teaches us the beauty of language. Because we learn to look at something differently. Because we learn about an experience.

Why read poems? Why not?

We could do a lot worse things than read a poem every day.

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