Poetry in Christendom
When most young adults in the twenty-first century hear the word “poetry” they think “mushy” Valentine’s day cards, Hallmark movies, and Nicholas Sparks overtures. Rarely do the words “professionalism” “talent” and “artistry” come to mind. However, it is important to recognize as a young adult that poetry is one of the highest forms of artistic language. It should not be disregarded—either in the home or in the academic world.
One of my earliest memories is my mom reading me A.A. Milne’s (the beloved author of the Winnie the Pooh stories) poems before bed, after breakfast, and anytime in between. When I was elementary age she began to read me Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems—poetry that excited my imagination and gave me a desire to construct these “word worlds” for myself. The gift of poetry was not in my personal ambition to write it but in my love for the beauty it was able to draw from the ordinary. Poetry has given me a love for words; not only the complexities of the language but the joys of words well placed. I learned to delight in the written word when I was unable to form my own sentences. Poems were perhaps the most influential in developing the love affair I have with books. An appreciation for all good literature begins in the home. Parents and children alike will benefit from incorporating poetry into everyday reading. Diligent exposure will grow a child’s mind by teaching him the importance of word-placement and tonal aesthetics in literature. Not only will he learn to understand the techniques of poetic language, he will learn to love the layered thoughts and the illumination of the ordinary that poetry offers.
Poetry is not a focus in most schools–both public and private. There might be a short mention of a poet appropriate to the course material in a highschool classroom. However, most study (in all the humanities) shies from poetry. The language is often considered too dense for the average student to understand or appreciate. Some teachers consider poetry unnecessary except for the student who has a particular fondness for it. Both of these views inhibit the student from receiving a well-balanced education. Poetry is, like any well-written literature, thought-provoking. Teachers are invested with the mandate to challenge students. What better way than to open up their minds to language that many children and adults cannot imagine organizing into coherent thought? Poetry in many ways is what we so long to say but can “never find the words” to express. It not only teaches students to appreciate the beauty of the language but also the diversity of the way they may organize thought. One can as easily express himself writing poems as singing or painting or playing an instrument. Each one requires discipline in order to display beauty and truth.
It is important to remember that the Creator Himself used a great deal of poetry to give His Word to His people. Psalms, Song of Solomon, and others (including excerpts from other books) speak in metaphors and with creative license. This is because some things can only be understood through illusion to ideas words create and not by the words themselves. Take the example of the two lovers in Song of Solomon. Would the passages be as powerful if they were written plainly like a textbook? Of course not. The depth of the message is in the analogies, metaphors, and meter of the verse. God understands the need of words that reach into our hearts and not just our minds. Poetry is the incarnation of that loving gesture. Be encouraged to read poetry, good poetry, today. You will find yourself loving words and loving God’s Word more because of your desire to see truth and beauty in the ordinary and supernatural expressed. As T.S. Eliot has said,
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”