Why Poetry Matters

Why Poetry Matters
by Susan Rich

“A tough life needs a tough language” and that is what poetry is.
That is what literature offers “a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”
Jeanette Winterson, poet and writer

Each April, poetry celebrations light up our campus, from the Highline Student Art Gallery featuring Poetic Visions to featured poets who teach workshops and read from their award-winning work. But do students need a month of poetry? Highline students are busy people, what does poetry have to offer?

One student new to Highline, recently arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo, told me that poetry is his hobby – he fell in love with words at a young age but has only just started writing poems in English.

“I’d lost my confidence,” he said, “poetry is helping me get it back.”

Another student who attended last year’s broadside exhibit in the Highline Library was so moved by what they saw that they volunteered to work on this year’s National Poetry Month events.

“This is something I want to be part of,” they offered.

In creative writing classrooms, at campus open mic events, and in private journals, students investigate their lives through image and sound, syntax and sense. Poetry offers all of us a strong anchor for the wild emotions that course through our days.

“Poetry is news that stays news,” the poet Ezra Pound once said. It also promotes literacy and fosters community. Poetry requires a deep listening and offers students a more expansive worldview. We know each other better once we’ve shared our work.

Susan Rich teaches creative writing and film studies at Highline College. She is the author of four books of poetry; “Cloud Pharmacy” (White Pine Press, 2014) is her most recent collection.