Poetry matters in the human experience

Andrea W. Doray
Posted 4/30/21

“The act of absorbing art is an act of connection.” —Connie Zumpf, Colorado poet. April is National Poetry Month (please don’t stop reading at the word “poetry”). In fact, April 2021 …

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Poetry matters in the human experience

Posted

“The act of absorbing art is an act of connection.” —Connie Zumpf, Colorado poet.

April is National Poetry Month (please don’t stop reading at the word “poetry”). In fact, April 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of this celebration of poets and poetry. Launched by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month reminds us that poetry matters.

I know, I know … sometimes just the thought of reading a line of poetry can be intimidating. For many of us, in our first exposure to poetry, we were directed to seek the “right” interpretation, the “right” meaning.

The truth is, there is no “right.” Interpretations are subjective, a collaboration between the poet and the reader. Educator, writer and artist Neil De la Flor puts it this way: “I love work that’s accessible. I also love work that I don’t understand but can ‘access’ through wonder and imagination.”

Mark Doty, an accomplished and critically acclaimed poet and writer, describes the accessibility of poetry this way: “I invite those of you who are uncomfortable with sentences that don’t go all the way to the end of the page to substitute ‘literature’ for ‘poetry’ when you hear it.”

Literature makes other people more real to us, Mark says. He quotes contemporary American poet Elizabeth Alexander, speaking as a teacher to her students in one of her poems: “ ‘Poetry,’ I tell them, ‘is the human voice, and we of interest to each other, are we not?’ ”

Yes, Elizabeth … we are.

And during these rough times – pandemic, political turmoil, violence – poetry is a beacon, a call to action, a comfort, a connection that shares the human experience.

Mike Henry, executive director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Denver and the West’s premiere literary center, tells me that workshops are busier than ever, online and virtually. “Folks are turning to writing and other creative endeavors to help deal with the pandemic and its isolation,” he says.

My friend and fellow Lighthouser, Connie Zumpf, agrees. Connie’s poem, “The Summer After the Summer of 2020,” was recently published on “Global Poemic, Kindred Voices in the Era of Covid-19.”

I asked Connie about her motivation and inspiration for lines such as these: “Oh, how a body craves the spark from a body in the flesh / sharing breath from everyone’s words …” She replied with two words: Zoom fatigue!

“In our circles of families and friends, conversation is physical, right? We live in bodies designed to see and need presence in the flesh,” Connie says. “Art reminds us that we are not alone in our loss, despair or rage .Art that communicates hope reminds us that these, too, are part of the human experience.”

If ever we’ve needed to be connected, to share in this human experience, it is now. And, as a poet myself, I celebrate National Poetry Month firm in the belief that poetry matters, that our interpretations of the human voice – as expressed in the lines and words of poetry – can be accessed by those of us who seek to share the human experience.

Andrea Doray is a writer who agrees with Archibald MacLeish, from his “Ars Poetica” (“the art of poetry”), published in 1926: “A poem should not mean / But be.” Write to Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

Andrea Doray

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