I’ve always thought of poetry as a way to make sense of the world. I still believe that poems offer viewpoints we may not have considered. I think this is important: not only does it encourage us to think in different ways, but it also offers a way for us to be empathetic to others.
Lately, I’ve also started thinking of poetry as a way to ask questions that hound us and not always have them answered, and accept that they won’t be, that we’re all confused.
For me, this isn’t the same thing as Frost’s “momentary stay against confusion.” If that were the case, poetry would make me feel less confused. Instead, poetry offers another human asking the same questions that no one has the answers to. The poem is not supposed to provide the answer. What the poem provides is solace that someone else feels this way, too.
There’s this poem by Diane Seuss that asks questions that no one will ever answer because the world shuts its mouth at the end of the poem. There’s this poem by Jack Gilbert that opens life for a moment with every mistake, and this poem by James Galvin that says we’ll keep making mistakes for as long as we live, grand ones even. These poems remind us that we’re all imperfect, and we have to recognize that, no matter how much it irritates us. Poetry makes our lives happen. It sends us into the world to make more mistakes, to fail better, as it were. What beauty poetry makes of our lives, and what courage.