On the importance of reading poetry..

Why read poetry, when you can always watch it?

Make no mistake – I love my daily dose of Button Poetry and Soundcloud and YouTube. All those voices, all those words – and all I have to do is close my eyes and listen. It’s inspiring, easy to share and accessible, as long as you have a good internet connection.

But as aspiring poets it isn’t enough for us to just listen. Our growth as artists depends on how much we’re willing to absorb and learn, and that means soaking in inspiration from a variety of sources. Binge-watching poetry channels on YouTube can only take us so far in our craft; eventually we’ll realise there is more to it than the rise-and-fall of voices, the hand gestures, the stage. And it all begins with a good book.

Which brings me to my point. Why do we – as performers of poetry – need to read it? 

  • Exposure: We must never forget that spoken word is one branch in the ever-growing tree that is poetry. There are as many forms as there are artists and no matter how much we read, we’ll never stop learning something new. The more poetry you read, the more you will expose yourself to.
  • Imagination: Ever catch yourself in the middle of an idea thinking it might not work? Or thinking you can’t write about certain things? Sometimes reading can help you realise that your imagination doesn’t need those barriers.
  • Inspiration: Ideas breed ideas. How often have you heard a favourite poet speak about the influence a Sylvia Plath or a Maya Angelou have had on their writing? Every art begins with exposure to other art. Your poetic sensibilities aren’t born out of isolation. They need to be fed. They need to start from somewhere.
  • Awareness: There’s a lot you can learn from an entire book of poetry. Many poetry anthologies/collections tend to revolve around a particular theme, or variety of themes – identity, trauma, sexuality, feminism, nostalgia…I could go on. The poet’s unique experiences and perspectives can give us new insights into things we thought we knew, and that’s always a good thing. Knowledge is power!
  • The Feel of Printed Paper: Now who doesn’t love that. Sometimes it isn’t even about what you can gain. Or the things you can write. Sometimes it’s just about that old comfort of sitting somewhere quiet and letting the words soak in. Getting a whiff of that lovely vanilla scent that only paper can have. That’s a reward in itself. Nothing beats the solace of having a book speak to you like it’s your best friend. 

So go pick up that book! And if you find one that does all of this for you, share it with people! Review! Recommend! Spread the word! 😀

 –  Anu Elizabeth Roche



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