Do poets read others’ poetry with the same enthusiasm as reading their own? Why should we read poetry? Do these questions seem trite to you? They are not meant to be. You might be surprised to learn that many poets do not read poetry. They may read other genres or journals or digital files, I don’t know. But I have come across poets who tell me that they don’t read much poetry. And I ask them why? The response is mostly about time, or lack of it to read. Some offer up that a lot of the poetry now seems to be on themes that are not interesting to them or even relevant to what they are writing.
It’s funny, as in peculiar, to me that writers of particular genres may not read others in that same arena. I don’t think this is an isolated situation either. I think more and more writers are scarce in time and find they must pick what they do. Do you agree? I wonder if going to a reading would inspire more interest in reading poetry. But now we must deal with the upsurge in covid-related illness and the growing threat of more isolation. For me this means I will turn more to poetry to read.
To read poetry, is to learn. I have not stopped learning. To read poetry, is to live. I have not stopped living. To read poetry, is to experience language in the most incredible ways. I want to embrace language. To read poetry, is to be reassured that all can be good in the world. I want to see and feel better. To read poetry, is to connect with people of all ethnicities. I want to know these people. To read poetry, is to celebrate an art form that is ageless. I love to celebrate.
Did you know that after 9/11 poetry sales rose? To read poetry, is to offer solace, give succor to those around us. To read poetry in the aftermath of a catastrophe and create a “wellness” is to offer a kind of peace, a kind of rest. We can find in poetry a path to our own acceptance and strengthening of our personal resolve to be a greater person. Maybe a greater poet.
So, yes, we must read poetry. Poets can be everything and everyone. Poets write poems for everyone, even though poets write for themselves. When a book of poetry arrives in my mail, I open the package slowly, knowing that a treasure is within. The late Mary Oliver had a poem, “Humility.” Poems arrive ready to begin.// Poets are only the transportation.”
Find a poetry book and begin.
Until next time…
Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).