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oatmeal1642's avatar

What do you think poetry uniquely allow us to investigate, to learn, to understand?

Asked by oatmeal1642 (180points) September 29th, 2012

Hi. I’m studying poetry in a course right now and I need to ask others what their views on poetry is! In my opinion, poetry allows us to understand ourselves. It invites us to crystallize a moment or feeling. Poetry is a language working intensely, drawn to read in a state of high emotion. How do you think poetry allows us to investigate, learn and understand? :)

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9 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I wish this question didn’t sound quite so much like an essay prompt. It’s an interesting topic. Why don’t you tell us your thoughts first—on both the what and the how—and let us respond to them?

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure how inviting poetry is, but it seems to me that it often tries to make things and meanings obscure, but using opaque language and trying to hide what is going on. When I was young, I enjoyed that. It was like decoding a puzzle. But now I’m old and decrepit, and I want poems to say what they mean. My mind no longer thinks in that twisted, warped way with hidden meanings and difficult words.

I do like rhyme. That can enhance meaning if done well. Or it can be funny, which is… well… funny.

Often poetry has patter. Like rap songs. People at poetry slams stand up and rap their poems in great, portentious sounding voices. It’s pretty fake, I guess, but the audience seems to like it, especially if the poem uses rhyme and meter to enhance some kind of in your face meaning.

Frankly, I don’t think poetry allows us anything. We do what we want to do. Poetry might help us or it might not. I think that it can grab attention, but it can also put us to sleep. It all depends on how good it is, and it depends on the ability of the performer.

Poetry is meant to be spoken and so of course it depends on the performer, but so much poetry is read, and if you read it silently, I suspect you lose a lot of its meaning. So the real question I would ask is what does performing words add that can not be conveyed by just reading words silently? Study that, you you will see what is unique to poetry that prose cannot provide.

zenvelo's avatar

Poetry is about the only way I get a visceral understanding of someone’s emotional response.

I listen to the Writer’s Almanac every morning while walking to the train, and it amazes me sometimes what some of the poetry expresses, I can even say to myself “I know that feeling”. Sometimes a poet just perfectly states my feeling of love at one poignant moment in my life, or how the light was when I was sad at daybreak, or what the sound was in the background when a whole bunch of us laughed.

Earthgirl's avatar

There are many different types of poetry and the things they seek to express and the ways in which the writer seeks to express those things vary quite a bit. So anything you could say overall about poetry would have to be a pretty broad generalization.
But in the spirit of your question I sense that you aren’t so concerned with the pedantic definition of what poetry is, as the effect that it can have on people emotionally,. I love your idea of “crystallizing” a moment in time through poetry. It reminds me of a poem I once wrote wherein I compared my writing of poetry to a wish of encasing a moment in amber like a dinosaur’s DNA (remember Jurassic Park?) Through reading the poem you could recreate the moment, resurrect it as it were. So to me that is one great thing that poetry can do, if that is the writer’s aim, and if it is well written enough to be successful. The best of poetry relates the experience or thoughts of the poet in a way that others can recognize the feelings, emotions and ideas and relate them to their own life or have an insight into life, an aha moment like @zenvelo speaks of. This is a tall order and the poet must be at the top of their form and the reader needs to be receptive also for it to work.

Metaphors and similes are one of the best ways in which to do this. We naturally reach for metaphors when we are looking for a shorthand way of explaining something. The comparison expresses a sort of underlying experiential parallel. With an apt comparison you don’t need to write pages and pages of exposition explaining all of the details. You try to help the listener relate to your thoughts and feelings by invoking universal knowledge of the world and the ways things are, or the way things were, things that no longer exist. Things like lost childhood, kinship with nature, love and passion, fear and victory, all of human experince. Poetry covers the full gamut of human emotions.

So, I would agree with you that poetry can help us to understand ourselves. It can also teach us how much we as human beings are alike. It can show on more of an emotional level versus a cerebral level. It is like language compressed to an elemental form. At least, this is the kind of poetry that I like. So I suppose I have to qualify my remarks somewhat. There is a lot of poetry that I don’t like whatsoever. There is a lot of poetry that bores me. But the good stuff is gemlike.

lifeflame's avatar

You might also find this previous fluther question useful:

Blondesjon's avatar

Nothing unique at all.

Anybody can write poetry.

DWW25921's avatar

Short answer but a long example! Yes. I think Poetry can make a person aware. I think it’s purpose is to make others feel something. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to conform. I think this is a good example.

By, DWW25921

Depression grips with icy claws… Tearing painfully through flesh as it eats steadily towards the heart of it’s victim. Depression goes from a feeling to a way of life as easily as a narcotic becomes a habit. At least it’s something to feel. Always there, to be relied upon in times of trouble. Almost the antithesis of comfort yet comforting in it’s reliability.

Depression does not know joy or contentment as it smothers all. Conquering and pillaging through a persons mind in a ferocious onslaught. It is so very hard to fight and so easy to succumb. It wants us all to give in. It wants us all to let it control, destroy. Until a person becomes a shell. Walking flesh going through the motions of daily life.

The habitually depressed are the joyless. Trying so very hard to obtain some feeling of happiness. A small tidbit of glee from this icy grip of reality. Booze helps a little but the bottle runs out. Drugs help a little till the dealer gets busted. Sex works as long as it works. When it’s over, the vice of choice has run its course… it’s there. It’s always there. Snickering.

Peering through the darkness. Lurking in the shadows awaiting a soul to devour. Stalking. Trying so hard to break free. Every kind word helps and every bit, even the tiniest sliver of negativity can send a roller coaster of pain. Outside the wall is up. Strength. Stability. Even honor. Inside emotions and worthless mind banter reign in self destruction.

Peace is more important than understanding. Others don’t have to understand. Just accept. Help. Please help. Oh God help. Or leave us alone. Just don’t make it worse. The depressed are vacuums, sucking in all the good times… Trying to hold on in anticipation for the next one. Hoping for some form of adoration that never comes. Loosing hope…

Love isn’t real. Joy is a farce. Happiness is nothing more than a brief lean on a crutch. (Depression can’t mess with a high junkie.) The roller coaster makes frequent stops. Not sure where the end is. Want to get off. This ride isn’t fun anymore. It hurts. Make it stop. Must have peace, at any cost. Don’t have enough to buy it. Peace. Priceless. Unattainable.

Observing others. Lemmings. Don’t have any REAL problems. Grandma said our pain is bigger than anyone else’s. It’s a gargantuan chasm. An ocean. Space. Big. Depression is bigger than we are. That’s why we are powerless against it. Depression goes from a feeling to a way of life as easily as a narcotic becomes a habit. What a way to live.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Blondesjon Are you standing by that answer?? ....hmmm.

DWW25921's avatar

@Blondesjon Your answer kind of offended me a little.

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