For most of the first two decades of my business career, I bifurcated my interests between “professional” and “creative.” In retrospect, this was a big mistake and a root cause of much unnecessary tension in my life.
I am a poet and a business professional, and only recently have I realized the benefit of crossing these streams. Now I am a shameless and impassioned advocate for the poetic voice as an integral player in an integrated life. Even those who think they are incapable of writing more than a text message might benefit from a little mingling of right brain and left brain.
Here I would like to offer just a few of the best reasons to give a go at writing a poem every now and then.
Poetry, in most cases, is a shortened form of expression. What may take pages of prose, you attempt to do in a few lines. The practice of poetry (even if you’re not terribly good at it) can inform your prose, cutting unnecessary word count for greater clarity and concision.
Playing with words through poetry can sharpen the part of your brain that makes you playful. Just ask Ogden Nash or Dr. Seuss.
Writing poetry can stimulate previously underused parts of your brain, helping you to be more creative in other areas of your life. You may find yourself adding a little flair to web copy, just because you can.
Similar to creativity, but different, innovative thinking can be encouraged by challenging yourself regularly to try out a new form of poetry. Look at the world in a new way through the reshaping of your own words. You may find new solutions to problems you have put on your mental back-burner, as you work your way through a few lines of iambic pentameter.
A poem may be the best way to tell someone you love that you do, someone you hurt that you’re sorry. It can also open up opportunities for community with other aspiring poets and writers that can enrich your life.
The process of writing a poem opens you up to emotions and an appreciation of the range of challenges felt by the rest of humanity and the universe. This is no small thing.
Sometimes the only way to say a hard or lovely or infinite thing is with the help of a few poetic tools, such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, imagery, and in the case of haiku, what I call “now-ness.” Get to know these tools through poetic practice, and you may find your ability to communicate through prose improving in unexpected and delightful ways.
Pouring anger, fear, sadness, tension, and a whole range of stressful emotions into a fourteen-line rant of a sonnet can be very therapeutic. It might not make for great poetry, but it sure can make you feel better afterwards.
While there is free verse, most poetry has some structure to it that requires a certain amount of discipline to learn. And even with the more unstructured styles, the practice of writing poetry regularly is itself a discipline. Incorporating this mental discipline into your life can help keep you fresh and your brain malleable. Similar to how some use crossword puzzles, but the advantage with poetry is you actually make something new from your efforts.
You may not be a fan of Dylan Thomas (perhaps you’ve never heard of him), but nothing will make you appreciate the skill that went into the writing of “Do not go gentle into that good night” more than your own attempt at writing a villanelle.
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…” so the song goes. Writing really good poetry is difficult, and the attempt to do so is a worthwhile method of reminding ourselves of our own imperfections. Failing frequently at this relatively safe discipline is a good way to reinforce a healthy sense of humility.
Who knows, if you try writing poetry, you may even find that you are good at it and that people like your poems. Not the only reason to write, but not a bad one, either!
If you write poetry, what are some of the unexpected benefits you have found from this practice? If not, what radical reason would you need to give it a try?