Why is poetry important?
As writers, I think poetry lets us be declarative and explorative without being interrogated while we speak. Personally I find that very important, both as a writing practice and for myself as a human being in the world still trying to figure out how I think and feel.
An anecdote that feels connected: once on a college trip, I had the opportunity to meet in person the internet friend of my then-boyfriend, who he had never met in person. That friend said, of his practice of writing margin notes while reading, “Reading a book is like having a conversation; if you don’t participate, you’re not contributing to it.” I think poetry lends itself to a conversational practice of reading - which is in part why I opened with how much I value being able to write declaratively and with exploration without being cut off. There is the workshop effect that many people experience in school—feeling pressure to conform their work to the wants or feedback of the workshop or professor—and there is just the pace of information in the world right now, which is overwhelming to me a lot of the time. So perhaps it’s not “interrogated,” as I originally thought, but interrupted. I am not advocating at all for a practice of leaving one’s thoughts unquestioned (I question almost everything I say and do before I say or do it), but rather submitting that the practice of writing poetry gives the writer the time and space to let thoughts unfold fully and completely.
Poetry is instructive without being didactic, we learn from it, as readers. What language can do is terribly exciting to me on a craft level and I love the practice of naming or noticing craft moves in brilliant work, either to emulate, practice, or just enjoy. Poetry also blows me away with the range of voices and life experiences I get to meet; it makes me feel connected to others in the world. Art doesn’t have to be autobiographical either. Sometimes it’s just important to watch other people play with language and allow yourself to enjoy what happens.