By Richard Coca
April is National Poetry Month, meaning that there’s no better time to write this article than right now. Poetry is a unique form of expression that at times offers greater insight into how we interact with the world. Often enough, it reveals to us our own perspective and beliefs about the actions and events that have gone on in our life. I told myself that it would be cool if I wrote a poem trying to get more people to write poetry, but then I realized there was no way I could beat fellow Grind writer Nestor Walter’s Matzo ball soup for the soul. Instead of a poem, I have a list, which, if you think about it, does the opposite of what any good poem does: It reduces, rather than expands, our world. So, isn’t this article meta and edgy, in a way? Without further ado, the following is a list of why you should consider writing poetry, even if it’s only two lines a week:
1. To learn to better express your feelings to others
The best poems hold your hand intimately as you both walk through the forest that is your thoughts. It also helps you develop emotional intelligence — which, let’s be honest, is so rare (and hot) on campus.
2. To learn to become more of a risk-taker
As an introvert myself, I can’t tell you how many times performing my poems at open mics has helped. The thing about poetry is that it’s personal. It doesn’t always have to feel that way, but it does for me. Each poem feels like a child that I birthed, and all critique towards it feels like someone told me said child is ugly. I have quite honestly forced myself to perform many times, and I have, for the most part, done fine. After a while, you become so numb to the anxiety that you start fooling people, and they begin thinking you’re an extrovert.
3. To appreciate other poets and their art
Especially when you’re beginning, it’s great to model yourself after other poets you admire and love, whether for content inspiration or a writing style. For me, that poet was the now-late Mary Oliver. Seeing her speak was moving and amazing, and her poems taught me to appreciate nature in such a way that paying attention to detail was devotion in itself.
4. To provide support to oneself
Self-care is not skipping all your lectures for the day and then falling behind for the entire quarter. It’s just not true. It’s not a face mask or watching Netflix all day long. At its core, self-care is about self-preservation. Day after day, class after class, it can feel like the world is constantly throwing responsibilities and work at you to the point that you feel like you’re drowning. Writing two lines of poetry a day can help encapsulate how you feel and allow you to take a pulse on yourself. It’s about preserving your identity outside of the world of academia, which at times can feel like it’s stripping you of your personality or identity.
5. To have an archive of past feelings and emotions
On a similar wavelength, poems are better than bullet journals because they capture how you feel. My favorite feeling is re-reading a poem three months later and cringing at it because the person you were three months ago no longer exists. It goes to show your personal growth and just how dynamic of an individual you are. It’s also nice to revisit your past thoughts and outlooks on life, and sometimes you might even find yourself agreeing with a younger, wiser version of yourself.
6. To add your own contribution to the canvas that is our world
You’re one of seven billion people. I truly believe that everyone has something to give to the world in terms of what I consider an artistic contribution. Poetry is also FLI friendly, as no fancy paint or brush is needed — simply a pencil, paper and a person.
That person could be you. Write away!
Contact Richard Coca at richcoca ‘at’ stanford.edu.