The Power of Poetry

Four poetry books stacked on a counter

While searching for Monday’s Quote of the Week, I found myself traveling down a rabbit hole of poetry about autumn.  I don’t often take the time to read and contemplate poems at length, but when I do, I’m rarely disappointed.  There’s something about a poem that can communicate a feeling so profoundly.  Free from prose’s need to explain everything in complete sentences, poetry can make its point through images and metaphors, playing with rhythm and structure in ways that make the reader appreciate language like never before.  A great poem has the power to make me feel connected to its author through universal human experience, conveyed with just the right words.

It seems to me that most of the people who read poetry also write it.  The non-poets among us are missing out.  Even if you’ve never had the desire to write a poem, you can experience the joy of lingering over the words assembled by a poet, letting the sentiment strike you in the heart, and nodding as you think, “I know exactly what you mean.”  (Our favorite song lyrics have undoubtedly triggered this response in all of us at some point.)

I subscribe to two daily poetry email lists: one from Rattle, a poetry journal and website, and Poem-a-Day from  As with most of my other email subscriptions, the daily poems sometimes get buried in my inbox, and I don’t read them every day.  Occasionally, though, I’ll glance at one of the daily poem emails and feel compelled to read it, slowly and carefully, savoring a few moments of contemplation at the start of my day.  Taking in a good poem in the morning can shift my perspective for the day to come.  If you are new to poetry and aren’t sure where to begin, subscribing to a daily email list is a great place to start.

Here are some poetry books that are in my library:

  • Native Guard, Natasha Tretheway.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection is deeply personal and powerful, addressing on tragedies of the poet’s own life and the racial legacy of the American south.
  • Good Poems, Garrison Keillor, ed.  This often-recommended anthology contains something for everyone.
  • salt., nayyirah waheed.  I received this book as a gift from a dear friend a few months ago, and while I haven’t made my way through the whole collection yet, I’ve seen several of the poems circulating on social media.
  • Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.  This book is one of the few items I inherited from my paternal grandmother, who died when I was 14.  The fact that she owned this book makes me wish I had known her better.
  • The Poet’s Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family, John Lithgow (audio book).  Lithgow (the actor) compiled this collection of poetry by famous masters and provides biographical information and insightful commentary about each poet.  The poems are read by high-caliber actors like Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.

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If you do want to try writing your own poetry, you may find (as I did) that it makes you appreciate poetry even more.  Last year, I took a good introductory workshop-style course on Coursera, a free provider of quality online non-credit college classes.

Do you read or write poetry?  What are some of your favorite poems?  If you are a poet, where can we read your work?

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