Why Poetry Must Be Taught

By:  Henry W. Noe ’22

Opinions Editor

The preservation of poetry is absolutely crucial in contemporary society. This beautiful art form is wholly eclectic, as it can be used to teach lessons on the styles of language, on famous historical societies, and on understanding emotional articulation.

Although both prose and poetry are comprised of sentences, poetry requires that the reader understand how words, punctuation, and phrases are being manipulated by the poet. To truly recognize how the poet is transforming conventional language to create a theme or evoke an emotion, the reader must be familiar with the rudiments of the language itself. Teachers can use poetry as a means for younger students to learn basic sentence structure, diction, and syntax. Older students, who have a higher level of linguistic knowledge, can analyze these poems to see how the concepts they were taught can be interwoven and stylistically altered.

English classes are not the only subject that benefit from poetry, however. Poetry has been used as a magnifying glass into the annals of the past. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” consists of Sumerian poems and was written circa 2100 B.C., one of the earliest examples of epic poetry. The traditions of the Greek culture have been conserved and later generations’ understanding of them has also been made possible through epic poetry. Homer’s two epic poems, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” recount the story of the Trojan War and Greek hero Odysseus’ voyage home. Moving to contemporary society, satire exposes the vices of society and the failings of government. This genre brings the attention of the people toward a certain issue that the poet believes must be remedied. Teachers can use these poems to teach students how communities were organized in the past, what problems existed, and how individuals operated in their society.

Relaying emotions and sentiments is what many would call the most popular use of poetry. Some of the most famous examples of emotional poetry are Shakespearean sonnets which are oftentimes centered around the forces of love, death, and suffering. Encouraging students to read more emotive poetry allows them to feel the breadth of the human spirit. Observing how the poet understands and writes about a feeling gives the reader the opportunity to grow in emotional intelligence. In young children and students, the ability to deal with emotions and to understand their origin is absolutely crucial. These poems can be used to help with the deciphering of emotions, which at times can be perplexing.

In poetry, the understanding of how language can be morphed into something else entirely, a historical retelling of the past which would have otherwise been lost to time, and emotions ranging from absolute despair to the divine feeling of true love can all be presented. Poetry permeates all aspects of life and this presence must be recognized. The teaching and preservation of poetry is vital to sustain the humanity in life; without it we drift within a heartless society.

 

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