Monday, January 24, 2011

Does poetry matter?

Poet Nikki Giovanni was interviewed on the local radio station earlier this afternoon. She is in town for a Martin Luther King celebration. It was a fantastic interview. In it she said something about art, and poetry in particular, that I want to capture here. 

The host of the radio show asked her something like, 'Does poetry matter to the average person? Is poetry important?' 

Now, before I taught in a, I didn't ever have to think about questions like these. When you are in art school as a professor or a student you just assume that what you are doing matters. 

But now that I travel in business and tech arenas, I'm constantly finding myself explaining the value of creativity to skeptics. Which is challenging, but ultimately good for me and, I hope, good for the skeptics.

But back to the interview. When asked if poetry mattered, Giovanni responded with this convincing anecdotal evidence, 'We have words poured over us when we are born. We have words poured on us when we marry. We have words poured on to us when we die. Surely, poetry must be important to us.'

I love this answer. It's straightforward and clear. It's the kind of answer that I can picture one of my colleagues in business or technology responding to. But I can also imagine these colleagues pushing back with something like, "Well, of course art matters to us during those milestones, but those moments are few and far between. I still don't understand how art, or creativity, is meaningful in our everyday lives."

‪Poems are important to us at births and weddings and funerals because we want them to shape those important moments of our lives. But we should be seeking to shape our lives every day. ‬Business and technology are every day ventures. Every day these forces shape us whether we want them to or not. So as long as they are shaping our lives, I'll make mine, and take mine, with poetry. 

bonus: Here's a much longer post on design & poetry that I wrote a few years back. Enjoy. 

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