Poetic utterance ritualizes how we come to knowledge. In the same way that poems illuminate our individual lives, poems also help us understand ourselves as a culture. Or at least they spur us to ask the questions. Poetic utterance mythologizes our journey of being. Poetic utterance tells and interprets our stories. Poetic utterance shapes our perspective of the mysteries of the present moment and helps us imagine the next one.
Walt Whitman hails us to join the communion between poet and human aspiration when he writes, “And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
In this way poetry connects us to our past, and poets unmask both private and civic memories, dreams, and urgencies. By harmonizing the body with the mind, serving both young and old, poetry is a guide to deliver us into a fresh engagement with our inner lives and with modernity.
If we care about order and disorder, then poetry matters because it is the art of the utterance of beauty and the grotesque.
If we care about the deepest aspirations of men and women across every community and culture, language and race, then poetry is always relevant because it is the art of the utterance of what we share in our innermost psyches.
Since culture and society existed both before we live and after we die, poetry is a link to our passage through our own time and a record of poets’ perspectives throughout time.
We know that human beings are intrinsically connected to one another in how we assert our being. When we read a poem, we are in the presence of this link. We are open to the metaphors of our shared natures.
Because poets have the highest faith that every word in a poem has value and implication and suggestion, a poem orients us in both our inner and outer existence. No matter what language we speak, we follow the guidance of poetry to better perceive sorrow and radiance, love and hatred, violence and wonder. No matter what continent we call home, we read poetry to restrict us in time and to aspire toward timelessness — whether we are in our most vibrant cities or in the remote woods.
Does poetry matter? Yes. Can poetry be more relevant? No. It is the song of song, the language of language, the utterance of utterance and the spirit of spirit.