Thinking about what poetry gives to me as a writer:
But since we got a Bomb—
And held it in our Bosom—
Nay—Hold it—it is calm—
Therefore—we do life's labor—
Emily Dickinson, I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl
In some way, poetry is the forgotten cousin of the literary world, but it can be a useful tool for writers.
Walk into almost any bookstore, and you will almost always find a poetry section. But who buys poetry? Who reads it? English majors? Folk signers? People who want to look smart? I don't think it's much a stretch to say that poetry is definitely a niche product.
For many of us, poetry harkens back to high school when we were forced to read Shakespeare, or Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, or E.E. Cummings. Maybe we had to pass a quiz about it, or even write a paper. Maybe some of us tried writing poetry at some point, but, for most of us, it is not the stuff of everyday life.
But I believe that- for writers in particular- it's important to keep poetry around, and to look into it occasionally, because it broadens our horizons, and, if you are a writer, it can be help give us a different perspective on your craft. Poets are doing something different from mainstream writers. Poets are experimenting with words, the atoms that make up all writing. They are the atom-smashers and re-shapers of elements. They will place words in new orders and rebuild sentences in ways we have never seen before.
Because a lot of modern poetry is short form, they also spend a lot of time working on economy of language. A good poem might change our perspective, expose history, or bring us to a deeper understanding of the world using only a few phrases. Poets need to deliver big ideas in very small packages.
So let's dust off the poetry; it can change the way we write; it's like painting with a totally different brush. It helps us reconsider how we say something, what our words might mean, and can help us discover new methods to express feelings and stories.