Why we need poetry


Yesterday I went to a poetry reading. For the first time. The poems were accompanied by a jazz band. All new to me. I didn’t know what to expect.

Long ago, I had decided that I actually didn’t like poetry.

To me it seemed to be nothing but an ego-boosting way of complicating a message that could be said much simpler. What’s the use in that? Ha, but how wrong I was.

I do remember how poetry poured out of me in gloomy teenage times, but it hadn't again until two decades later, triggered by starting Kung Fu.

A friend had invited me to the poetry event.

Though I wasn’t intending to read, I did slip the Kung Fu poem into my purse, neatly folded, hiding it.

I should have known better, because this poem had been ever so bold from the moment I wrote it. Never would it sit still and be quiet! First, it urgently wanted to be written. It came out in a big spill, and I wrote it just for myself. Then, it wanted to be shared, so I showed it to my husband, then had a writer colleague read it.

But now it wanted to be shown to STRANGERS?

A few minutes after the event started, I felt how the powerful poem wanted its way. I watched my hand write my name on the list. All that was left for me to do was to order a glass of French rosé and drink it as fast as I could (without getting too dizzy).

The event’s host called me on stage. I got up and unfolded the unruly poem. No turning back.

I’ve been on stage many times in the past, whether alone or with the band, and was used to some degree of nervousness. This here was so personal, revealing, vulnerable. Why did I feel so… un-anxious?

I looked at the audience and was deeply calm and happy. As I shared a piece of my heart, the sound of the jazz band playing along matched my words beautifully. I wasn’t reading the poem, I was acting it, using my hands, my body, my voice, my facial expressions.

Oh my, how the poem came to life, when before it was just a dead piece of paper!

Now I felt connected to these strangers, and received.

And that’s when I realized that poetry becomes alive by sharing it with others so they can connect to it. It wants to be in the world, but it needs a voice.

And I also understood that its message needs to be framed the same way a painting is. Words become art. Art is what catches our attention, and if the message is for us, it will resonate with us on a deep emotional level.

I was glowingly ecstatic. And grateful. No threat, no fear. I was completely in my element, like a fish in the water. I had thought that I could never be so brave and read my poetry, but I gave in to what was asked of me and let go of old concepts.

And in the unpredictable experience I found a piece of myself.

Wow! Surprise! You never know unless you try!

And what’s more: This happened on the day I had practiced sparring with a black belt and got hit in the stomach pretty bad. I had spent most of the afternoon feeling devastated and doubtful. Reading the poem about how Kung Fu affects me opened up my heart to it again and brought the smile back to my face. Oh my goodness, what an emotional rollercoaster that day was!!

What does poetry mean to you? Are you guilty of locking it up in your drawers? Share your insights (or poems!) with me!!

From my heart to yours,