Happy National Poetry Month! . . . An Apologia

That’s right—it’s once again time for the Academy of American Poetsannual celebration. And this year the Academy turns eighty, so special things are in the offing.  Stay tuned for more news of festivities, but in the meantime . . . read a poem! And before you do that . . . read this blog!

I had originally intended to use my post to argue that poetry is beneficial because learning about it improves children’s cognitive performance in school. But then, after some reflection, I abandoned the plan. Why? Because poetry doesn’t have to prove its worth with statistics. Metrics have taken over our thinking about schooling, and in doing so, have missed out on what’s really important about art.

So here’s why poetry—during National Poetry Month or otherwise—is so vital: it enriches our lives. While reading a poem, we witness the joy, sadness, and beauty of the poet’s life. We learn new things about language. We discover new insight into the ideas of people whose perspectives we could never have imagined. And we do so in concert with every other person who has ever read that poem, even if every other person has a completely different take on its meaning. In other words, we come to understand our place in the human family. All that, in just a few minute spots of ink or a few coded ones and zeros.

And that is what art is for!