Growing up in rural Ohio ensured my childhood was one full of time outside in the woods on my parent’s property, and in the fields of my grandparent’s farm. I am of German stock, which for my family meant discipline, being well-organized and, most of all, being hardworking. Though I never felt like I was under pressure to succeed, as I have gotten older I have realized that, as a child, this manifested itself in my activities. I joined several sport teams and did not spend much time reading. I pursued science classes and history courses, but I did not have time for literature or art. From early on my eyes were set on becoming a lawyer, and by so doing make my family that worked on the farm and in construction proud.
I did not become a lawyer.
Do not get me wrong, the field still interests me, and has still informed my career path despite my never moving past the practice LSAT. My passion for law and for understanding the underlying, and hopefully logical, rules of the world has taken me to grad school where I am about to earn my PhD in Political Science and in the future, with any luck, teach students about the political and social world that surrounds them.
“But how does this tie into poetry?” You might be asking at this point.
As I have gotten older I have realized just how important having creative outlets are to have a good life, both personally and professionally. For my part, I believe this holds true regardless of lifestyle or career selected. Though painting and photography have a special place in my heart, creative writing and composing poetry is where I most clearly see benefits both at home and at work. Without further ado, here are the top five benefits, as I see them.
1. Poetry is Therapeutic
Though there is an entire field of creative arts therapy built around writing and poetry, I have found that you can benefit from writing it even if you are just doing it alone. Poetry is often on the shorter side, but conveys more than its fair share of emotion. Writing poetry tends to serve as a gateway to your soul, allowing you to profess any feelings you are experiencing, be they ones of elation or ones of depression and anxiety. By expressing yourself through poetry, you can begin to get a handle on what is affecting you so much, and in turn start to understand how to come to terms with them. For me, poetry has served as a way to channel the nervous energy of my anxiety in a constructive way that makes me feel better with each poem I write.
2. Poetry Deepens Your Understanding of Yourself
Related to the first reason, poetry can also allow you to better understand yourself. Poetry, at its heart, is about the tapping into of thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns, all of which tend to be invisible until dressed up in stanzas to be paraded before the eyes of the waking world. In the day-to-day grind, we can get all tied up in focusing on the immediate tasks in front of us, thinking that completing them will bring us closer to our goals and, by extension, better support our overall happiness in life. Though this focus does often serve well in meeting the first part of that goal, sometimes the second part is not quite met. This is where poetry comes in. Since it is generally removed from our daily activities and goals, it can be a great way for us as individuals to channel our thoughts and emotions, thereby giving our waking minds a glimpse of what our unconscious is concerned with.
3. Poetry Deepens Your Understanding of Language
A famous philosopher once said, “I think, therefore I am.” To achieve a greater contentedness in life, I would dare to expand this saying out to, “I think well, therefore I am well.” A person is only as complete as the words, thoughts, and feelings that they are able to express. A lack of vocabulary or significant exposure to the thoughts of others can lead to a stunted mental life at best and, at worst, consistent frustration with the daily activities of living in all its parts. The pursuit of poetry, and taking consistent efforts to improve upon the craft, will bring exposure to the words, thoughts, and feelings that would otherwise be lacking. To write poetry is to also gain in empathy, to better appreciate the experiences and lives of other people. To use a word I came across reading a poem, it allows one to sonder, that is to achieve a feeling wherein you realize that everyone you see, everyone you have ever interacted with, is living a life just as complex and as real as your own. Without poetry, I may never have stumbled upon this word and, by extension, I may have never had the consequent thoughts about other peoples lives as well.
4. Poetry Helps You Develop Other Skills
Living in the globalized age that we do, communication has become a lynchpin skill to any number of jobs and career paths. Further, communication has always been of extreme importance in matters of the heart or family. Writing, speaking to others, and understanding the thoughts and interactions of those around you can all be improved through the pursuit of poetry. In particular, speaking poetry out loud can contribute to the development of better verbal communication by loosening the tongue and improving the vocabulary in which you are comfortable. This is a skill that is integral, not only to the professional world, but also to the quality of your personal life.
5. Poetry is Something You Can Finish
The last reason I will touch on is one not often associated with poetry, but in my mind it can make poetry a particularly powerful tool in your life. In life, people will often pursue goals that have longer time horizons. You might have the goal of graduating college in four years, or getting married by the time you are thirty, or to spend a month in Fiji once you have retired. In seeking to achieve goals like these, we can sometimes feel like our wheels are spinning in place, that no progress is being made, and that we might never get there. Poetry is sometime that you might be able to finish quicker than your daily activities towards achieving your larger goals. Getting a poem completed will bring with it a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that you have finished something, which can offset how we might get in our own heads questioning our life goals that seem not to be getting any closer to realization. When I am having a bad day, and it feels like I am not getting enough done towards my dreams, I’ll take 15 or 20 minutes to mull my way through a haiku. This break allows me to ground myself, to remind me that there is more to life than just my job or the limited goals I am working towards. Reaffirmed, I can then get back to being productive, knowing I have already accomplished something today by bringing a new poem into the world.
I hope that you too will see some of these benefits should you decide to pursue poetry. To all you potential poets out there, I wish you there very best of luck in your pursuit of the written word, and may your life become all the richer for it!