Why is poetry important?
Is it? I suppose the question could better be asked: how is it important? On a societal scale, my sense is that poetry is not that relevant for most people, that like opera or perhaps live theatre, it exists as an anachronism of sorts, a form of human expression that once may have had an ascendant place in the public imagination (and even then it would likely have been for narrow privileged audiences), but now thrives in more marginal spaces.
But importance on an individual level is different. Poems have been for me at times life rafts, whispered evidence of hope from lives lived intensely within the maelstroms and possibilities of imagination. The poems I like most transform the existential discomforts of being alive into events of beauty. And the magic of a poem is that it can happen in the poem -- that transformation from crisis to resilience. Just like that. Like the sudden snapping of a tattered prayer flag on an old string, being in the wind.