For most of us, our experience with writing poetry starts and ends when we're teenagers. Normally when a girl or a boy breaks our heart.
It is, even for the best of us, awkward and cringeworthy revisiting these early attempts. Maybe that's why most of us don't engage with poetry that much, it reminds us of something we'd rather not remember. Or maybe there are just easier ways to keep ourselves entertained. But even in a world where authors and writers of all stripes are desperately trying to work out what it takes to sell books in 2015, poetry should, and does, live on.
We discover poetry again and again in our lives because while the lessons life teaches us along the way about heartache, depression, love and joy, may seem familiar because we've come across them before in other narratives, movies and books, it's not until we each experience these things for ourselves, sometimes painfully, that we look for the answer to the riddle life has put before us.
Often, the answer can be found in poetry.
Which is why, even in a 24/7 always-on, chaotic contemporary existence, poetry still finds a way.
Sure, we might deride selected lines cunningly cropped and filtered on a celebrity's Instagram account, or roll our eyes as a teenager with zero-Photoshop skills paraphrases Rumi to suit her own social media agenda. We might sigh as someone going through a particularly bad time decides that they'd paint a better picture of how they're doing by getting Bukowski to speak for them on their Twitter account.
Don't. There's nothing wrong with these snippets of literature. Maybe if someone, somewhere reads one line, they'll find something inside of themselves that clicks, and it'll trigger a search for meaning. Maybe one day they'll google that line that meant something or go to someone's poetry reading because they're looking for more of what they found. Maybe they'll even buy a book of poetry.
I hope they do. There's something magical about a book of poetry. It is an artifact rather than a narrative describing something else because the book itself is the story. And inside it, are more stories, stories as short as a sentence and epic tales told on a single page that sing to the soul of all mankind. You can flip through a book of poetry and eat the poems like popcorn. You can leave it somewhere in your house for someone to find. You can circle your favorite one and give it to someone who has some of that meaning you're always looking for, buried deep inside them. It can make you feel like someone, somewhere has finally described some indescribable thing.
And if you are ever tempted to pick up the pen and write poetry yourself, then congratulations, you have chosen to record some part of yourself that speaks to the truth of all things.
I assure you, even the most sincere tax return is not as beautiful as the haiku scrawled on a Post-It note during lunch, or the free verse hastily assembled on a teenager's blog.
Poems are a way to talk to a side of ourselves we cannot talk to and a way to take pictures of things that we cannot take pictures of. But like a picture, it also holds moments in time. It works in the space between words, where connections are made, meaning is formed and the poem is ultimately owned by the reader.
And still, for so many of us, you only notice poetry when you need it.
What will you say at your father's funeral? What will you read to your wife's family on your wedding day?
When your son goes to war, what sentence will he have engraved on his zippo?
So read poetry. Because while all the poetry in the world might not be worth as much as one good doctor, if there is a reason we are alive, if there is a reason we're here, it can be found in poetry. It is the barest bones of the human experience and it captures the soul in flight.
Remember, the 'Poetry' sign in the bookstore is shorthand for, 'These books are here to help. They understand something real, eternally shared, and fundamental that you're going through.'
Turn off your phone, get a cup of coffee, and read one. You'll be doing your soul a favor.