what you can learn from poetry
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What We Can All Learn From Poetry

Before you run away screaming at the sight of the word “poetry,” let me tell you that this post will apply to you. No matter if you’re a writer, a poet, a photographer, a blogger, an engineer, a teacher, or anything in between, this post is for you. That’s why I included all of us in the title. OK, now that I’ve calmed you down, let’s see what this maniac (me. I’m talking in third-person) has to say about… gulp… poetry.

As some of you might know, I double-majored in college. I was an english major and a multimedia journalism major. Long story short: I thought being an english major was the ticket to being a magazine editor, then I found out–about three years in–that my school offered a multimedia journalism major. I blame my advisor, but we can blame me if that makes you feel better. I can handle the heat.

See, I’m not the english major “type.” I don’t read books. (Gasp! Shame! How could you?!) Call it my self-diagnosed undiagnosed sleeping disorder, but no matter how much a book intrigues me, it’ll put me to sleep. Needless to say, I wasn’t and will never be the english major “type.” Most of my classes were literature-focused, forcing me to lug around about eight hefty novels per class, all of which, by the way, I never read. But enough about the terrible person I am, let’s get back to the reason I’m divulging these dirty secrets.

As an english major, one of my electives was a poetry class (among other mind-enriching ones like Creative Writing, Experimental Fiction, and so on). I first scoffed at the idea of writing poetry. Me? The idiot who clearly doesn’t belong in this class? Psh, no way.

Our assignments were simple. We were given a “prompt” of sorts each week and were simply instructed to write a poem about it. Then, we would print out enough copies for the whole class, they’d read it at home, mark it up, and then when you returned to class, you had to read your poem out loud in a circle. Your classmates would then either casually tear you apart or praise you for your stroke of genius.

Yeah, poetry class gave me hella anxiety.

what you can learn from poetry

I had an inner monologue telling me, You’re not a poet, you suck, you have no idea what you’re doing, they’re going to think you’re crazy…

But as the semester continued, I realized that poetry was not the villain. In fact, it was the complete opposite.

It was my savior.

And the things I learned in that class I still use today.

 

Poetry taught me…

 

…We’re all scared.

Even those people who had been writing poems for years before I started. Even my professor. The truth is, none of us really know what we’re doing at times, and, worse, we don’t know how things are going to turn out even if we try our hardest. Never think you’re the only one who’s scared, because the most confident person in the room is probably shaking in their boots a bit, too.

 

…Vulnerability is beautiful.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a solid wall when it comes to sharing my emotions. I become a mute if someone asks me what’s wrong. Why? Because being vulnerable is terrifying. What if the emotions you share are weird or crazy or just plain stupid? Spoiler alert: they’re not. Getting even just the slightest bit vulnerable is strikingly beautiful. My most well-received poems were the ones I was the most afraid to share. They were the ones that dug deep into my soul. They were artistic risks and not-so-happy stories. Some might even say they were dark. And you know what? My classmates’ fulfilling feedback made me realize every ounce of soul was worth it.

what you can learn from poetry

…Things and people aren’t always what they seem.

Remember how I scoffed at the thought of poetry? I now relish those moments I spent agonizing over a 10-line poem. I find the title “poet” to be completely rewarding. Poetry gets a bad rap for being mushy or lame, but after immersing in it, I know that it’s a written art worth celebrating. Similarly, it’s usually the people you don’t expect that make the biggest impact on you. I doubt I looked like the prime “poet,” with my Vera Bradley backpack and sorority letters across my shirt. And I didn’t expect others in my class who didn’t “look the part” to produce anything meaningful. Shame on me. Give everything and everyone a chance to prove you wrong.

 

…Finding meaning in life is worthwhile.

Sometimes we get caught in routines, going through the motions, that we forget there is meaning to everything. When you’re forced to be introspective and write a poem, you have to slow down a little and search for something worth writing about. You find yourself looking at everyday life through a different lens. You start to appreciate the way the trees wave to the wind, the way a friend laughs with crackling cackles, the way a little girl keeps trying even though she fails every time she tries to sprint up the slide. You don’t have to be a poet or enjoy poetry to start finding beauty, humor, and motivation in your surroundings.

 

…People will judge you.

Everything you do could be scrutinized. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t have to try. Once you realize that happiness is internal, you’ll stop looking to others for approval. If you like doing something, do it. Who cares if it’s “lame?” If you do something just so a certain person will congratulate you, you will never be satisfied. You’ve got your own life to live. To hell with the haters, the naysayers, and the Judgy McJudgers. Tell ’em BOY, BAI (even if they’re not boys, you should still say that).

 

…You’re never too old to learn something new.

New experiences enrich your life. Try something you’ve never done before. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t even have to like it. But at least you freaking tried it. Stop thinking you’re stuck in a box. That’s no way to live.

 

what you can learn from poetry

 

 

 

 

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  1. Abby

    I love the notion that we are never too old to learn something new. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that so I don’t get stuck in my ways! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  2. Amanda Ripsam

    I have some poetry I have written and I love reading others poetry it gives a deeper look into the workings of the persons mind.

  3. Terri Steffes

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My husband, the english major, would say that it is next to impossible to evaluate the work of a poet. We both love poetry but see different things in the same poem.

  4. Belle

    These are great things! I’ve loved poetry especially when I was younger! I actually wrote some when I was in my teenage years!

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  5. Dawn McAlexander

    Poetry is artwork in written or spoken form. Since many people don’t comprehend what they hear or read very well, then they have a tough time seeing the beauty and serenity that is in poetry. If more people paid attention to that, then they would see just how great poetry is. It seems that you have been able to do just that.

  6. Debra

    It’s hard to put your stuff out there for people to read and comment on but good luck!

  7. Di Hickman

    I loved poetry in school. I got a poem printed in the school newspaper but it was credited to annother student. 🙁 I never wrote poetry after that…

  8. Blythe Alpern

    When I was younger I used to write a lot of poetry. Reading some of it now makes me laugh. I can clearly see where I was in my life. Some of it was good, some was horrid. Still, I appreciate the beauty of poetry. I love how a few simple lines can paint a picture and evoke a feeling.

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Yes, yes, yes. It’s funny to see how we grow. I love keeping the things I write simply for nostalgic reasons. It always takes me right back to that feeling and moment in time.

  9. Kecia

    I don’t think I have ever thought that deeply about poetry, but you are right. I have tried writing some poems when I was a teen. I should get back into it – or at least into reading more.

  10. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh

    Ugh some college advisers suck! My sister n law went for her psychology degree, but wasn’t told until her 3rd year that in order to get a job doing what she wanted, she would need a masters….then my husband wasn’t told in order to do what he wanted to do that he would have needed a different degree. Hello, just do your job college advisers! Anyway….I love poetry. I remember it being introduced heavily in the 9th grade. It was wonderful. It has so much deep meaning….well some do. Ha! Haikus are my favorite!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Ha, you’ve summed up my feelings quite accurately about college advisors. It’s almost like they want to keep you there longer so you pay more tuition or something 😉 But I love that you love haikus! I do too. My wheelhouse is comprised of minimalist, short works.

  11. Rachel

    Poetry is a great way to express one’s self. This was a great post. I’m not huge into poetry but enjoy hearing it. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Krystal // The Krystal Diaries

    I was an English major in college because I loved reading and writing. I still do. I love poetry too and when I was younger even had a poem published. Poetry is definitely more like art, the beauty of it is in the eye of the beholder. Some people enjoy it and others not so much.

  13. Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife

    I’ve been writing, reading, and loving poetry since I was a little girl and I totally agree with what you’ve written here about what poetry can teach us all. Also, I was a broadcast journalism major in college with a writing & publishing minor, so I can appreciate your experience 🙂

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Yay, love that we have similar backgrounds! I also loved poetry when I was little… Shel Silverstein books were my bread and butter. 🙂

  14. Robin Rue

    Poetry definitely speaks to me when I read it. I love to find the underlying meaning in it all.

  15. CourtneyLynne

    Omg I was super big into poetry when I was younger!!!! I would buy so many books and get lost in poems for hours

  16. Rachel

    I love poetry. I can’t write it at all but I love reading it and learning about the poets.

  17. Erica Nicole

    I love this because I, too, love the beauty and simplicity of poetry. It can make you feel so many incredible things.

  18. Holly

    I’m not much for poetry but I love to read. I do agree with everything you said about it though. It just isn’t my thing.

  19. Jeanine

    I used to be really into poetry. But its been lost over the years. I really should start reading more of it again. It is pretty incredible.

  20. Taylor

    I was an English minor in college, and this reminds me of what I loved about poetry! I also love the comment about your never too old to learn something new. This reminds me of a 65+ year old man that was in my college history class one semester. I never understood why he would be going to college after he retired from a very successful career? His attitude was absolutely amazing, and he said, “Why not learn more?” He said just as a body in rests, stays in rest, a mind in rest, stays in rest… So he was determined to learn every day and keep his mind going!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Oh, I love this story! He’s so right. I’m terrified of being a lesser version of myself someday. What an inspiration. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Vaishnavi

    Oh wow, I love poetry. So your post is getting me nostalgic. I’ve been writing freestyle ones from childhood. I am still an amateur poet, though. Lol. I majored in Engineering and love that you’ve included that :). Love your life lessons from your poetry classes!!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      I’m nostalgic about it too… trying to get back into it myself. And everyone starts as an amateur; there’s nothing wrong with that! 🙂 Also my bf is an engineer and so is my brother, so you’re in good company!

  22. Brittany

    I didn’t really get into poetry until I got to college. Then I fell in love with it like you! There is so much to it and I love how people can express themselves.

  23. Kiwi

    That doggie is too cute!!! OMG I love poetry I used to write poetry all the time.

  24. Yona Williams

    I used to love poetry as a child, and I did take one class in college. But, for some reason…I’ve kind of abandoned it…and a shame too because it’s a beautiful way to express yourself.

  25. Tabitha Shakespeare

    Not gonna lie when I read the title I was a little put off because of the word poetry but I actually really enjoyed reading your post! I love what you said about vulnerability being beautiful!

  26. Irina

    I love reading and listening to poetry. My 14 year old has been writing poetry for a few years now. He’s really good and it only takes him a few minutes. I think those that write poetry are deep thinkers.

  27. Krystal

    I took a Poetry class in college, and it was oh so hard. I felt like I couldn’t properly express my feelings through this medium!

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