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Why Poetry Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Poetry Matters Now More Than Ever

Poetry has never been more important. In turbulent times like these, it is natural to search for reliable sources of truth. But where do we find what can seem so illusive?

Does it come through the ever-increasing number of chattering channels, each competing to be heard in the swelling volume of contradictory news? Or through inherited wisdom and knowledge passed down through small family units, as we spread ever further from our roots?

Perhaps we need to look elsewhere. To a timeless source of truth that always speaks from its time to the present moment. Something not based on a need for popularity, specific geography or instantaneous praise.

In times like these, we need poetry more than ever. Here’s why.

When power corrupts

“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses”

What Kennedy understood as he uttered these famous words was the impact poetry can have on truth. Truth as an expansion but not stretching of the facts. Sometimes, facts can be truthful and yet escape without telling the whole truth. Because truth is more than fact, it is experience, it is the sum of all the facts and it is the truth of their importance.

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Poetry is something we can inherit; a lineage of wisdom extending backward from today. And in it you find an understanding of experiences that seem unfathomable to our own, current perception of life.

The poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon offer insight into the first world war no documentary can offer. The South African ‘struggle poets’ show us the reality of apartheid oppression by using those very voices the oppressors wished to silence. And in these revelations, we find a source of truth that is personal, specific and felt. It is a truth we find through empathy and compassion rather than finding meaning through dry analysis.

Words that cross barriers

Adrienne Rich offers a humbling, raw picture of gender politics and American life over half a century. Through her precise, masterful incisions, she translates truths so that anyone might access them. And whether they make us uncomfortable, reassured or shocked, her poetry is a mirror for us to reflect our own experience in. They may not be of today but are no less relevant for it.

‘Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow,

Enough to let me know

She’s a woman of my time’

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From Translations in Diving into the Wreck (1972)

There are also some genuinely extraordinary invitations from the most unlikely of sources in poetry. Take for example the Statesman-poets. They include a number of published US president-poets but, perhaps more interestingly, several infamous tyrants too. The young poet Soselo, is a fascinating example of this apparent contradiction. Aged sixteen, Soselo wrote hopeful lines like:

‘My spirit trembling, once again

I’ll glimpse before me the bright moon.’

From Iveria, No 123 (1895)

Yet Soselo was the pseudonym of a young Josef Stalin.

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Why poetry?

From beginners learning to write poetry to seasoned wordsmiths, all writers reveal themselves as individuals in their poetry even if we have always known them as icons or foreign others. They reveal an innocence and honesty in their desires and hopes; empathy and anger in their griefs and despairs. It reveals the writer as a human, as an individual – one willing speak out and reveal some part of themselves.

Poetry denies us the chance to dismiss any writer as illegitimate in their depiction of life. After all it is theirs they are telling, and in their telling is revealed some truth of their experience. It brings their conversation into our own and in doing so expands each of us.

But what else does poetry do? Poetry communicates meaning beyond facts; it connects people through shared experience or empathy; and crucially, it slows us down. To read a poem is not a quick thought, something to skim read and move on from, unmoved. It demands our attention. It asks us to step back and reflect; to empathise with some other perspective on reality.

And in this slowing down we invite ourselves into a further understanding of a situation: drawing new conclusions, asking new questions, finding new voice. We live in a time when so many voices are heard speaking, yet so few are actually heard. Poetry is our necessary counter to all this.

Add your own voice

But poetry is not something only for those who are wiser or better than us. Poetry is for everyone and everyone has access to it. And that means not only reading poetry, but writing it; discovering and cultivating your own voice. Writing the words that will slow others down into an understanding of your experience of this life.

In doing so, you contribute to a wider sense of the telling of the truth of our time, which may help us navigate it. Our voice matters. As Richard Frankland, the aboriginal writer, says:

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‘When you have art

You have voice;

When you have voice

You have freedom;

When you have freedom

You have responsibility.’

Featured photo credit: etsy.com via img0.etsystatic.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

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