The Pleasures of Poetry
Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? I’m not sure what that entails but I’m thankful for the reminder to tap into the unique ways poems move, shape, and delight us.
It’s worth reflecting on what poetry does that prose does not. The contrast isn’t as stark as I’ve just stated it but I do think poems spark emotions in different ways than prose. Poems shine different lights on subjects than narratives or treatises or declarative sentences. I’m not saying poems are more important than declarative sentences. It would be hard to declare that notion without using declarative sentences!
Poems compare. And those comparisons sneak into our souls before our minds know what’s happening. I sometimes find myself smiling in the middle of a poem before I comprehend its meaning.
Does this excerpt from Billy Collins’ poem “The Trouble with Poetry” make you smile?
the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
To everything else in the world,
As Christians, we value poetry for many reasons, not the least of which is because God chose to include that genre in the scriptures. We’re whole persons with intellects, emotions, volition, physical desires, and a host of other aspects to our complex nature. God has inspired his multifaceted word to connect with us in a multitude of ways.
Even those who might say, “Poetry’s just not my thing,” will want to appreciate the differences between prose and poetry because God thinks we should.
Consider the differences between prose and poetry in the Bible:
Prose: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
Poetry: “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (Ps. 47:1)
Prose: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above…” (Col. 3:1)
Poetry: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Ps. 42:1)
Prose: “Husbands, love your wives…” (Eph. 5:25)
Poetry: “Drink water from you own cistern, running water from your own well.” (Pr. 5:15)
Again, I’m not saying that poems are better than prose. We need both. That’s why God inspired the book of Romans as well as the book of Ecclesiastes. He could have just told us once to rejoice. Instead, he gave us 150 poems to sing so we could “taste and see” as well as understand that “the LORD is good.” (Ps. 34:8)
He could have just told us “the marriage bed” should be “kept pure.” (Heb. 13:4) Instead he inspired an anthology of love poems, the Song of Songs, a book we whisper with hushed awe.
God could have merely described life apart from Him as futile thinking and darkened understanding (see Eph. 4:17). Instead, he wove the perplexing book of Ecclesiastes to help us experience emotions of futility and darkness.
I hope to share more about poetry in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, Happy National Poetry Month!