I’ve loved poetry since my childhood. I remember the day when I found myself “fitting in,” not to any of the popular clubs at school or on the block, but in a book of poems. That book spoke my questions, my rage, my joy in my language.
I still remember my old neighborhood library and the local librarian, Mrs. Carolyn Outlaw, who helped me to discover my sanctuary, the poetry section. Poetry was a safe place where I could vent, rebel, and resist safely without failing school, getting pregnant, or running from the cops. The poems did not judge me; they listened and reflected, even taught me a thing or two without scolding. Poetry was my hangout, where I knew I “belonged.” Like the cheerleader’s pompoms, the athlete’s letter, the scholar’s awards, poetry was and earned badge of honor.
That honor is challenged these days with poets and poetry as entertainment and fodder for mockery. There are numerous stereotypes and spoofs from live stages to YouTube. Even Saturday Night Live has a quirky reappearing character as a visiting poet mentoring at-risk teens in the classroom. Beyond the cultured open mic and campuses of academia, it’s hard sometimes to remember to take poetry seriously…
The poem/poetry still works its magic on a daily basis. It resounds from the pulpit to soothe lost souls and floods the pages of holy books. Poetry is still one of the most popular teaching tools in the classroom (across curriculum and subjects) when other pedagogical attempts fail. Poetry is the quick tuck-in at night when the parent has little time for another chapter of Harry Potter. And yes, the particular poem is often where the outcast will find himself at home.
How could we forget?
Poetry makes the most engaging lyrics, touching love letters, and successful pick-up lines. Poetry adds that extra special touch to any ceremony, ritual, birthday/anniversary card. Poetry adds that extra something that most find difficult to put into words.
Have we forgotten?
Some of the greatest novelists, composers, filmmakers, painters, and thinkers of all time have also been poets. While a great novel/film can transport us to another adventurous place and time, a great poem can catapult us into multiple dimensions.
We must remember…
There are countries and cultures that build shrines and monuments to their poets in town squares and revere them as national treasures. Even in the 21st century, there are places in the world where in times of war and revolution, it is the poet who is the first censored, silenced, eliminated, body found floating in the river with his vocal chords removed, never to poet/sing again*…
The poet often has the most keen pulse on the people, sings the soul of his people, and knows how to move them deeply to laughter, to tears, to love, to revolution…
Let us hold sacred…
Poetry is the song of the soul, words painting pictures painting beyond a thousand words. Great poetry is meditation, medicine, and magic. Our lives are the richer because of it. Our human experience on this earth is a more passionate imprint because of it.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we simply would not be the same without it.
I am honored and humbled to be a Poet.
*Rest in peace and poetry, Ibrahim Qashoush.