Photo Credit: Emiliano via Flickr

I’m taking this awesome Coursera course called Modern & Contemporary American Poetry.  While it’s kicking my mental butt, the class has shined a new light on poets and poetry for me.  I’m very grateful to be partaking in this class.  I’m learning some valuable lessons, that I’d like to share with you all.

Lesson #1- Poets are Historians

Poets tell the stories of the nations in which they reside.  They relate the emotions, events, thoughts, and ideas of the people in their time period.  They do so in beautiful language that we all can take meaning from, whether we are learned or unlearned.  They are essential to the literary preservation of a country.

Lesson #2- Poets Keep it Real

Poets say what you want to say, but that you may not have the courage or eloquence to say.  A poet can showcase popular ideas as well as unpopular ideas with such grace, that you’d never know they were presenting an argument.  They give a voice to the unconventional, the hippies, the intellectuals, and the deep-thinkers of the world.

Lesson #3- Poets Help us Understand Religion

Lately, I’ve been studying my religion, Islam, through the eyes of a poet.  I’ve come to the realization that just as we need poets for politics, we also need them for spiritual matters.  During the time of our blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), poets played a vital part in relaying information to the public.  Arabic is an exquisite language that has deep oral traditions.  The Arabs benefitted from the speech of the poets, as they could relate to them.  The poets let the people know what was going on in the religious arena which was very volatile.

Lesson #4- Poets are Democrats                                                                                                                                                                 

When I think of someone who wears the badge of democracy properly and with pride, I don’t think of the U.S. President.  I think of poets like Walt Whitman, who unabashedly let us know that he was a poet for the people and of the people.  He understood the plight of his readers.  He got his hands dirty and wrote poetry that even the commonest of people could  appreciate.

Lesson #5- A Good Poet Inspires                                                                                                                                                                    

The most important lesson I’ve taken from this class is that poetry is open to interpretation.  There is no wrong or right way to interpret a poem.  Your personal experiences help shape the meaning of a poem for you.  I am forever inspired by influential poets like Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and the like.  I am inclined to be fearless and uninhibited in my own poetry because of these luminaries.  I throw my words on the paper like splashes of paint on a canvas.  I have faith that my readers will take my abstractions and use them as mediums to create their own meanings.  Thanks to ModPo, writing and reading poetry is all the more enjoyable to me now.

What lessons have you learned from poetry?