By Kyle Taylor, Contributing Writer
All people have read poetry at some point in their lives, from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to simple children’s poems. Not everyone may know that April is actually National Poetry Month. However, what some people may not understand is just how long poetry has existed.
According to English Professor Waller Hastings, “Poetry is the first form of literature.” Most poetry was not written, so it’s impossible to tell what the first poets or poems were. Instead, they were stories that were memorized by narrators who performed them for large audiences. “Poetry was an oral tradition, learned through its use of rhyme and repetition,” said Hastings. Seeing as the first novels were only three hundred years old, poetry has been around for far longer. The earliest poems were told at the same time as stories such as “The Odyssey” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh.”
This month is important in helping us understand the importance of poetry. English Professor Angela Rehbein said that, to her “Poetry provides a window into the society that produced it.” By reading poetry written by people from various times such as previous wars, we’re able to get a sense of their reality. “We’re given perspectives we could otherwise never have, and it illuminates aspects of the past,” said Rehbein. Through reading poetry, we get a better sense of who we are as human beings.
Poetry can say a lot about the people who has written it, but it can say even more about the very art of language. Rather than using everyday terms like lonely, poetry uses more beautiful and complex words like solitary. “Poetry uses words to help illustrate by showing things in a new and unique way. It allows us to understand language in ways we otherwise didn’t,” said Hastings.
Everyone can interpret poetry differently. Some people look into the writer’s mind or their struggles by looking at their works. Others are able to find some deep meaning behind the poetry they read which makes them appreciate it more. As the first form of literature and storytelling, poetry should be given the attention it deserves, and this is the perfect month to do so.
To learn more about poetry on the West Liberty campus, please contact Dr. Dave Thomas at 304-336-8199.