Sunday, April 12, 2015

What Is it About Poetry?

I recently read two articles in the newspaper that touched and amazed me and started me wondering what it is about poetry that makes it powerful. The first story concerned a soldier, who upon killing his enemy decided to go through the dead man’s pockets. I’m not sure what motivated him to do this or what he hoped to find, but what he found shocked and puzzled him.  There on a folded piece of paper was a poem.

The second story was about a mother’s effort to reach her troubled teen-aged daughter who was deeply depressed. Her daughter was acting out her despair in a rebellious way by refusing to wear shoes to school. It came to an ultimatum from the school, shoes or no school. Shoes had become a touch point, a focus of her daughter’s depression. The mother was inspired to use the shoes as a place of connection and hopefully of healing. She began to leave a folded poem in her daughter’s shoe each morning to let her see 
that “people had been in pain before and had struggled to find hope.”  The poets took that pain, that struggle and put those thoughts into the best, sparest words they could.
After some time, the mother noted a change in her daughter…the dark cloud seemed to lift a bit.  At the same time, she found the poems unfolded in her daughter’s pockets.
She was reading them and they were beginning to have an effect. “Poetry knew where hope lived.”

An enemy soldier carrying a poem in his pocket, a troubled teen finding a poem in her shoe every day, reading it and finding hope again. Pretty powerful stuff.  I am not promising you a magic elixir, but it seems there is something about poetry that deeply touches the human heart, gives it comfort and helps it to heal. And perhaps more.


  1. During my daughter's rebellious adolescence, she was in a drug treatment program for some months in a local hospital. That was before cell phones and she had no phone privileges anyway; my visits were limited to one or two times weekly, but I stopped by the front desk every day on my way home from work and left her a poem. We don't discuss that painful period, but your anecdotes make me wonder if the poems may have been a tiny window on a better world.

  2. Thank you for your story. Poetry in both these difficult passages became a conduit for love...and a mediator of sorts. It provided a daily connection between you and your daughter and an opportunity for her to hear the voices of others. I do think the world is better with poetry in it.