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bring poetry into everyday life

There’s a lot of great poetry out there. But you don’t necessarily see it much. The first step is to find some great poems — poems that aren’t too long, poems you could recite in front of children, poems that would make someone else smile, or think about something important, or just say “mmm” in a satisfied kind of way.

Old poetry can feel a little, well, old. But just because some of the words are a little… vintage… doesn’t mean you can’t understand it. Learn the words and phrases, and you’ll be able to share that knowledge with others. After all, the only way anyone learns a word is by seeing or hearing someone else use it. Once you understand the words, you can say them with confidence.

Commit the poem to memory. There’s something special about knowing words so well you can recite them on demand. You can do it. Just break everything down line by line and go over it on repeat until you’ve got it.

This is the fun part. You’ve discovered a great poem. You’ve understood what all the words mean. You’ve memorized it. Now you’re ready to share it with the people you run into in everyday life. People recite life stories. People recite jokes. You can recite a poem. But when you recite it, make it come alive. Perform it.

Poetry for the Everyday

You like poetry. Or you wish you did — you like the idea of poetry. But isn’t poetry just for nerds, for stuffy academics poring over line-numbered texts to dig up weird insights? Or isn’t it just one of those things artsy people nod their heads to while swirling wine in a skinny glass?

Nope. Poetry is for you. It’s for your family and your friends too, for your second cousin at the reunion, for your coworker, for the middle-aged mom who’s been sitting near you in the waiting room for two hours.

And poetry is for hearing. Sure, it’s fun to see quirky line breaks and words going backward as they trickle down the page of a thin university press volume, but try reading it out loud and you’ll realize a lot of poetry these days is meant to be seen and not heard. That’s fine, but who’s seeing it? Spoken poetry will reach people who wouldn’t pick up a book of it.

So let’s turn back the clock a little, and dip into an era when rhyme and rhythm made music in the ear, not just on the page. Plus those old goodies are in the public domain now. So they’re yours too.

You can bring the verse. I’ll help show you the way.

Professional photo of Joshua Bowers Eno

Joshua Bowers Eno

Writer, Poet & General Logophile

Words have fascinated me as long as I can remember. When I was six, I memorized a somewhat complex paragraph (for a six-year-old) from a children’s book about trains — not because I tried but because I liked the way the words went together (and I liked trains). Many moments since have confirmed the value of beautiful words — even more so when they convey beautiful ideas. And since words are a human thing, and humans are everyday people, the words belong to all of us. They are the gold that can glisten on all our moments. I find tremendous value in poetry as an expression of incarnation: the lowly learning to receive the supreme. I’m glad to have you along for the journey.

“I have loved the stars too truly to be fearful of the night.”

from “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams

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