1: It’s music to the ears. Literally.
The earliest poems were sung. Rhythm and rhyme helped poets remember long verse and bring kings and queens, not to mention maidens, to tears. Minstrels entertained with poems, storytellers retold the sagas of war, and songwriters from Gershwin to Dylan gave them melody. If you want to give your ears — or those of your date — a treat, read a poem the way it’s meant to be read: aloud.
2: It overturns the ordinary.
Ask yourself why kids love hearing good poems. Like a bowl teetering on the lip of a table, poems seem on the verge of anarchy. Words toss about in sudden ways, metaphors pair uncommon things, the “world” is a “stage,” and chaos almost reigns. Good poems put the ordinary on notice.
3: It moves you.
I’m speaking about love. And the body. Read aloud, poems are pushed along with the sound and movement of breath. Vowels and consonants collide or blend. Sometimes breathing is its very sense. Brain patterns change. You may not understand a poem, but you feel it in the blood.
4: It calls attention to detail.
How aware are you of your horse’s harness bells? What if you don’t even have a horse? Robert Frost makes you aware and, for some reason, awareness of things is contagious. Poetry brings the world closer.
5: It’s good for the soul.
I don’t know where the soul resides or even what it is. But poetry nurtures connections you didn’t know existed, or rekindles some you’d long forgotten: between object and people, nature and city, time passing and time standing still. It’s really a small thing that, if you let it, expands everything.