By: Emily Maybanks
Today – 21st March 2018 – is World Poetry Day. Poetry is, of course, literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity, by using distinctive style and rhythm. From the UNESCO website, “held every year on 21st March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.” Furthermore, “UNESCO first adopted 21st March as World Poetry Day during its 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard. World Poetry Day is the occasion to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media.”
What are the benefits of poetry? There are lots of personal, emotional and health related advantages to not just writing poetry, but reading poetry too. Poetry writing is an excellent practice for strengthening our writing skills. Through poetry writing, we gain a better command of language – not just English, but any language in which we write poetry; we also cultivate a much more robust vocabulary, as well as master literary devices, and learn how to work in imagery. Poetry has other benefits that are meaningful on a more personal level. Writing itself in general has long been viewed as a deeply therapeutic hobby or even career. But poetry imparts a vast range of emotional and intellectual benefits that are useful to personal growth, whether we’re working on self-improvement, coping with emotions, or even furthering our careers (including careers outside of the writing field). These benefits include, but are by no means limited to:
- It is therapeutic – briefly mentioned earlier; poetry allows emotional expression through exploring emotions and feelings as well as promoting self-expression.
- It increases our self-awareness – poetry can help us to be more in tune with what’s going on in our hearts and our minds.
- It improves our creative thinking – with its focus on symbolism, metaphors and imagery, poetry can improve our ability to think more creatively.
- It improves our critical thinking – similar to the previous point, by expressing our thoughts and feelings, poetry enables us to challenge ourselves.
- It helps us to form connections – while a lot of people write poetry privately, by sharing our poetry; we can often inspire, deeply move, and even honour people who are important to us.
It is not just writing poetry that has numerous advantages. Reading poetry has the powerful ability to make us better public speakers. This is because, unlike most other forms of creative writing, poetry is created to be read aloud. It focuses on rhythm and therefore forces the reader to be more aware of the dynamics of the language, such as where to slow down or where to speed up, as well as where to place more or less emphasis on certain words or phrases. We can’t just tell the listeners our words when it comes to reading poetry; we have to make them believe our words. Another wonderful thing about poetry is that it can be combined with other art forms. We can read poetry to music, or poetry can include illustrations.
To finish this article on World Poetry Day, and the many benefits of writing and reading poetry, here is a poem written by a Swansea University student, called You & I:
I was careless; that was my mistake.
I could have been more thoughtful,
sure about who handled me.
you were careless too.
Treating me disposably,
because you weren’t enough
In every sense.
I thought your words
would be my demise.
I should have known,
that could never be true.
And despite your view,
that I am strong and hard.
These bones break easy
to allow for growth and change.
It was you.