Sunday, March 21, 2010

A personal note on World Poetry Day

World Poetry Day is today, March 21, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999.

The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements." World Poetry Day has existed in some form since at least 1505, according to the National Poetry Day Committee, which was based in Florida, USA, in the early 1990s.

I celebrate poetry nearly every day. It is particularly precious to me because I am not hugely fluent in expressing feelings in every day life. Emotions tend to overwhelm me and poetry is part of my process to soft through them and make sense of them. Taking the time to put them to words helps me clarify what I am struggling with, or what I want to celebrate, or what is on my mind.

Scientists who study such things, tell us that when communicating, only about 15% of what we get from someone comes from the words themselves. The other part comes, in about equal doses, from vocal (tone of voice) and visual (body language). Since poetry is all about words, I take special care in picking words that express a tone, that sound a certain way to try and make up for what's lost in merely being words on paper (or on a blog or site). Taking that care is soothing, and in a way, keeps me sane.

That's not just a metaphor. I really does help keep me sane. There have been a couple of times in my life where I was overwhelmed by life and work, too much so to give time to poetry, and not having that outlet however well or poorly I wrote, was destructive to me, and to those who depended on me.

I used to think that writing was something I could give up when I needed more time, that perhaps it was selfish to take that time to myself to ponder and write and sort things out my way. But I have come to see it differently. It's like taking medicine. You can miss a day or two and rarely does the lack of medicine kill you, but miss something essential for a long time, and you do suffer, often badly. (or at least I do.).

Reading poetry can do the same thing. At times, I struggle for days with something I cannot put words to. I write verse, but it does not work. It doesn't find the heart of what is on my mind and heart. But since I read poetry, sometimes some of yours who visit here, sometimes from books, in time, I read a kindred heart who touches me, and unlocks that emotion to something I can deal with. I am eternally grateful to those of you, and those who came before you, whose verses do that for me.

What does poetry do for you? Whatever that might be, celebrate it. Today as World Poetry day, and every day.

Tom

PS, the picture was taken last spring, in Botetourt, Va.

5 comments:

FireLight said...

Where I live, people often sing the praises of soul food...and they mean collard greens, peas, bacon, and juicy tomatoes with cornbread....
but the first phrase that came to mind when you asked what does poetry mean to me....
SOUL FOOD!

FireLight said...

Oh I meant to add, Tom... that I often find a feast here!

Shadow said...

poetry cleanses, enhances, draws pictures, frees the mind and soul...

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

I, too, appreciate poetry almost every day. It is soul food to me. And you are right about writing keeping one sane. I think I would not be functioning these days if I didn't have a spigot. And, so true, often the words of others gives me a voice when I couldn't find the exact ones myself. Thank God for poetry.

Derrick said...

Hi Tom,

Belated Happy Poetry Day! I know I'm glad to have begun reading poetry again - mainly that of other bloggers - and writing it too. It transports and affects our emotions, and making us 'feel' has to be good.