Why Poetry Matters

Joseph Campbell talked about “the one great story” - the myth that lives within all of us; the ancient legends that are embedded in our DNA (The Power of Myth, 1988) Campbell warned us that we might be out of alignment. We forgot the stories that created us. Thus, we are no longer in accord with the Universe. We live in our heads and rely on our past experiences to define who we are. Past experiences are not the most reliable source of information. We make mistakes, but we get better each time we try over. The mind remembers everything we ever did wrong. It’s like a broken mixtape that plays the same song to us over and over again each night before we doze off to sleep. We wake up hangover from the negativity poisons we feed ourselves. Then we wear shoes weaved from lies our minds constructed. We don’t wear shoes at all because we are not grounded. We float in above our bodies in the space where thought forms imprison us.

 

The solution? There are many solutions to ground and transform negativity into positivity. One great example is meditation. But what to do after you have meditated? Journaling has been a tool recommended by a plethora of psychologists to cleanse you off unnecessary thinking. Yes, I say unnecessary. Playing the same short film about what you said five years ago to that acquaintance of yours is not a productive activity. Besides journaling there is poetry. Poetry aligns you with the Universal Consciousness.

 

This cosmic alignment is why poetry by a person who lives in a foreign country and grew up in an exotic culture (exotic to you) might resonate with you. That poet is speaking words that are inherently familiar to you. Those words wake your soul in parts that were dormant since before you were born. This may sound esoteric and mystical but does it matter if it’s healing and transformative? Poetry showcases your unique humanity through a formula known for thousands of years. All of this is true about any avenue of Art: painting, photography, dance, etc. The list is infinite. We will stick with poetry on this occasion.

 

From the “great above” she set her mind towards

The “great below,”

The goddess, from the “great above” she set her

Mind toward the “great below,”

Inanna, from the “great above” she set her mind

Toward “the great below.”

 

Whether you enjoy this particular poem or not it has lived for centuries. It is probably older than our imagination allows us to go back in time. This poem is a Sumerian story about Goddess Inanna who travelled into the underworld to visit her dark sister (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949). Why would we care what the Sumerians wrote thousands of years ago? Joseph Campbell wrote extensively in that beautiful book The Hero with a Thousand Faces why we should care about myth. In short, Inanna and her sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the underworld are one in the same. Within all of us lives goodness and darkness. All of us who are brave enough eventually look at both parts of ourselves to understand our fundamental nature. This is why this story spoke to people eons ago, talks to us and will speak to future generations to come.

 

Why is it essential to the poetry of today’s day and age? Whatever emotions a poet outpours on paper someone else has already lived or will live in the future. Every experience is unique, but it is similar enough. Heartbreak is still heartbreak whether that painful experience was a divorce or a denial letter to a dream college. The magic with words is when the writer creates a poem he or she heals. When the reader engages with them, he or she heals. It reminds us that we are all human and imperfect. Regardless of the background, we all suffer, and we all have joyous moments. Poetry connects, transforms and heals.