Why is poetry important?
I think this is an interesting question.
I believe language is a tool that allows us to transcend the limitations of our bodies, and therefore ourselves. Bees inherit the dance steps they perform to communicate vital information. Bees have a kind of language. Birds sing, handing down bits of language that came from those who lived before them, each generation altering them slightly.
Even before written language we sang our stories beyond ourselves. We are social creatures, not only in our present, but with connections to our past. We can commune and collaborate with the dead.
I believe poetry is the most enduring form of language. Language can communicate information, yes, but only poetry recreates life in a way that allows us to leap into one another’s shoes and show us the unchanging condition of being human, even while the cultural norms shift over distances or through time.
Sorry to get academic about it, but I like the distinction that Aristotle wrote about in terms of mimesis. Poetry recreates life. It doesn’t instruct us, it invites us into someone else’s world so we can see through their eyes and understand. We don’t even have to agree to an object truth to understand another human being’s experience. Novels can do this, but poetry (as a form) does this in a way that is communicated in small, memorable jewels. As the Arab poets have described lines of ghazal: pearls on a string. Poems are our heirlooms.
Poetry gives us the ability transcend ours little individual selves. It allows us to comfort one another when we can’t physically embrace.
I think poetry is vital.