Why do members of our Professional faculty regularly attend poetry readings, like the one pictured above at Diesel Books in Oakland by New York Times Poetry Editor Matthew Zapruder? As Zapruder argues in his new book Why Poetry, reading and writing poetry afford us a space in this chaotic time to unplug, to reflect, to create, to settle into our interior lives and to emerge perhaps more fully human and humane. Going to this place can be challenging, but for creatives and communicators, perhaps especially, it is often exhilarating and endlessly rewarding.
If poetry isn’t your space for art, consider finding that space in some other medium. If poetry or imaginative prose is your space for art, perhaps you can relate to these quotes from Zapruder’s extraordinary and thought-provoking book:
“What poetry is asking us to accept can be difficult. Our proximity to our mortality, the fragility of our existence, how close we live in every moment to nameless abysses, and the way language itself is beautifully, tragically, thrillingly insufficient…these are some of the engines that drive the poem. It’s natural to want to turn away from these things. But we have to face them, as best we can, at least sometimes. Poetry can help us in that nearly impossible work.”
“If freedom in the imagination is a privilege, it’s one I believe everyone should have, as a basic human right. I also believe that poems not only make meaning, but are more often than not engaged in some way with our deepest human issues, be they personal or societal or political.”
“A poem is like a person. The more you know someone, the more you realize there is always something more to know and understand. A final understanding could probably only begin upon permanent separation, or death. This is why we come back to certain poems, as we do to places or people, to experience and re-experience, to see ourselves for who we truly are, and to continue to be changed.”
More about Why Poetry can be found on its HarperCollins webpage.
An Interview with Matthew Zapruder about Why Poetry can be found at the Poetry Society of America.
And the Poetry Foundation has a selection of Zapruder’s poems.