The Value of a Poem

As has been my habit lately, I have been reading lots of different things, jumping around a lot. In the last few days, I was reading Poetry and Commitment by Adrienne Rich – which I wrote about in another blog post– and in it she made a references to a man whose ideas on a subject were defined by a poem he read and to how that domino effect can work.

This idea of poetry’s importance in modern society is something that I think about often. With poetry not being a mainstream art form, not reaching massive audiences like film and pop music do, how much impact can a poet make? Adrienne Rich’s essay – which makes reference to poetry not being a mainstream art form – has made me rethink it. Maybe it takes only one person reading a poem for that to have a ripple effect, or maybe the goal is to have an effect on one reader at a time, instead of trying to impact ten million people at once.

With respect to audience, poetry has never been about high sales and expansive quantities. It’s like that Guy Clark song, “Cold Dog Soup.”

There ain’t no money in poetry
and that’s what sets the poet free
but I’ve had all the freedom I can stand.

Maybe writing poetry is not designed for modern mass consumption models. Does everything have to be? Does everything that isn’t get left behind? Picasso only painted one “Guernica,” but look how many people it has impacted.

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