There is something so simple yet so powerful about poetry. A lot of people shy away from reading poetry. Many have bad flashbacks to being forced to rote learn the work of long and torrid affairs churned out by generations of white British men at school. For many, poetry was to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Which is a real shame. Poetry is simply, the best words in the best order. Every idea and emotion is pared back to its simplest form, expressed in a visceral manner that when combined with rhyme and rhythm leaves a lasting impression. (the rhythm and rhyme is why you can probably still remember The Highwayman and other old school staples).
“But why do I have to learn about poetry? What job do we need to know poetry for?”
“It’s not about a job, it’s about the expression of emotions and ideas.”
“But is in the test?”
These days, students are offered a variety of forms and perspectives including spoken word poetry and performance poetry. New generations of writers are taking their words to the stage and poetry is (almost?) slightly hip. We can show students poetry via performances and readings on line. There’s even some wonderful kinetic typography created from some of my favourite New Zealand poems. And if all else fails, there’s always the Eminem clip I share about how the rap aritist “bends words” aka irregular rhymes.
New Zealand is blessed with some of the best poets around, in my humble opinion. When looking for ways to make pauses in the day, times to be mindful and step back from the noise, reading poetry is an extremely mindful pastime. My favourites include Hone Tuwhare, Apirana Taylor, James K Baxter, Cilla McQueen and Fleur Adcock. Then there’s Janet Frame, Sam Hunt, Owen Marshall, Glen Colquhoun… There must be something in the water of these shaky isles that generates such literary prowess.
Poets are the apothecaries of the written language. They help us make sense of the world, of our relationships, of our identity. They represent people and places on a deeper level than social media can ever achieve. And a “good” poem (which I define as one you like) stays with you forever.
If you’re looking for a quick mindful fix, grab yourself an anthology of poetry from the local library and browse through with a brew. You might be surprised that those high school lessons paid off and you can now follow the writer’s clues yourself to unlock layers of meaning – a truly rewarding and mindful experience.
For my overseas followers, I’ll leave you with a spoken word poem which is a great representation of New Zealand Identity and for the classicists, W H Auden’s Stop the Clocks for anyone who has ever experienced grief. No explanations needed.