C. Day Lewis, a well-known English poet, asked this question many years ago, "What is the use of poetry?" This is the question I want to answer today in my own way. A lot of people are suspicious of poetry. Even people who say they are fond of it don't enjoy reading poems. They say that they prefer paintings, songs, and films to poems. Some people would list a few reasons why they dislike poetry. People say that it is difficult for them to understand the point of what poetry says. Another reason that they don't like poetry is that they believe poetry can't help them to get on in life. Let's take these ideas, and let me discuss these things in a deeper sense.
Is it important to see the point of a poem you have read? My answer to this question would be affirmative, but it's not always so. Poets use words in order to create special effects on readers, so poetry is the sort of words arranged by poets in their own special ways. Let's suppose you are looking at a painting. You are standing in front of it and it causes you to experience feelings. This doesn't mean that you understand the whole meaning the painting might imply. Let's suppose again you are a person who enjoys inventing meanings rather than feeling emotions. You can invent an interpretation when you examine a painting, but your understanding would be different from others'. Poetry is standing in front of you, just as the painting is before you. If you want, you can grab it, and then you can create your own world. If you don't want to, you can't see the broad views poets spread out for you. Poetry is a door into a mysterious world that you can step inside whenever you want.
Can't poetry help people to get on in life? People who say this are, I’m sure, being a little rude. The question has an arrogant attitude toward life. People who say poetry isn't useful for them to get ahead in life tend to think the main object in life is to get a job, to make money, and to rise rapidly in the world. Or, these people think poetry has something to do with extraordinary men and women. Is there a person who might ask, "Do daffodils help to get a job?" Is there a person who says a rainbow is useful for making money? Poetry is meant to be enjoyed. This doesn't mean that poetry is just a play thing to simply amuse people. Lewis said once, "A good poem is just about as hard as diamond." A good poem lasts for centuries, and it continues to give pleasure to readers. Why do people still enjoy reading poetry in the age of a global economy? Some people believe reading poetry is a good path to share communal values as well as to comfort persons who are in sorrow. A poem is a literary work, and it is also a way of bonding people together.
Reading poetry always reminds me of a pleasant experience to be remembered. When I stopped in the office of my American supervisor to discuss the thesis of my dissertation, he suddenly asked me what I ate for that morning. I told him I ate some Korean food. He cautiously suggested that what people eat could make them read poetry differently. I realized, that day, that poetry is in between art and life. It is an art of using words resonating with the breaths of the world. It is also the life of someone whose feelings get into words. I dare reply to Lewis, poetry is a special way of connecting art and life each other.
Choi Dong-oh email@example.com
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