Many young people nowadays seem to find poetry incredibly boring, which definitely saddens me as an English student. I suppose I can’t really blame them for having this impression (even I struggled a little trawling my way through Homer’s The Odyssey), but I think the real reason poetry has such a reputation is often due to the way in which it is presented.
Our generation has grown up in such a fast-paced world, jam-packed full of social media activity. You don’t even need to leave your bed in the morning to check the news, and your friend living halfway across the world is only a couple of button-clicks away. With this kind of action constantly surrounding us, the idea of taking time to sit down to read through a thirty-page poem doesn’t appeal to many teens who aren’t hardcore English students such as myself.
What most people don’t realise is that poetry is everywhere and can be found in many different forms. A lot of today’s teens may have outgrown classical poetry, but the great thing about literature is that it is constantly evolving. Modern poetry exists not only in the form of sonnets or epics, but also in music lyrics. Rap songs place the same importance on rhythm and rhyme as any other poem, but are simply presented in a way that is arguably more relevant to young people today.
My favourite form of modern poetry is that of spoken word, or ‘performance poetry’. Spoken word is poetry written specifically for the purpose of being read aloud, so a lot of emphasis is placed on its delivery and the way the words sound to an audience. Poems conveyed with this much emotion are more engaging and accessible, and automatically make the audience excited. My favourite orator is Sarah Kay, a woman who teaches young people the importance of self-expression through Project VOICE. In 2011, she gave a TED talk and performed her poem ‘B (If I Should Have A Daughter)’, a poem about life lessons and growing up. Sarah uses actions and expression to engage her audiences, and her poems are always relatable to young people.
Another great thing about spoken word is the subject matter. Although performance poetry can pretty much be about anything, many poets often choose to address more serious and controversial topics, using poetry as a way to express feelings and let things out that they may not have otherwise felt confident enough to convey. A fantastic example of this is Kevin Kantor’s poem ‘People You May Know’, which bravely addresses the issue of rape.
Writing your own poetry can be incredibly therapeutic – in the same way that keeping a journal can help sort your thoughts, poetry enables people to learn things that they may not have otherwise realised. Encouraging creativity, introspection and boosting self-confidence, poetry can really take a large role in helping young people discover themselves.