Poetry matters. It matters a lot.
But it’s hard to say why, when you give it some thought.
It matters in ways we can’t even describe.
Perhaps that’s why so many poets imbibe.
We can’t say what we mean. We cannot depict.
That’s what made Prufrock a sad derelict.
Still we try and we try to describe why verse counts.
We can parse syllables, down to the ounce.
We analyze sentences. What makes them bounce?
How do images stalk? How do metaphors pounce?
We can tell you what’s better. We can tell you what’s worse.
Still, it’s hard to describe why there’s magic in verse.
Just think, for example, what it does to a curse.
It’s one thing to yell out an insult in prose,
But poets can do so much better than those.
For the prose writer merely bends diction and grammar,
But poets have meter that smacks like a hammer.
The novelist shows us that Freddie is stupid,
But far better to tell him he’s been cursed by Cupid,
That love, if it finds him, will pack him in ice,
Then make his heart sushi and stick it on rice.
See what I mean? Verses just have more punch.
They’re like the martinis that go with your lunch.
And triple meters like this? Well, they’re a slingshot.
I like them. I like them. I like them a lot.
And to think of it, now that I’ve given it thought,
I think I know why they’re so eagerly sought:
This life’s not prose particles—it’s a vibration.
There are waves, not mere stuff, at the core of creation,
And in words verse best manifests such a relation.
Poetry matters, for matter is poetry.
And prose makes good lumber, but verses can grow a tree.
And if you despise them, I say you’re a villain.
They’re magic, I swear it. Just ask my man Bob.
This post is part of our annual Lit Counts series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop—is important to them. If you agree, consider supporting Lighthouse on Colorado Gives Day. Mark your calendar for December 6 or schedule your gift now. Thank you!
David J. Rothman currently serves as director of the graduate program in creative writing at Western State Colorado University and as resident poet for Colorado Public Radio. He’ll be teaching a weekend intensive at Lighthouse, The Tricks of Triple Meter, starting November 11.