In season 7, episode 7 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” a group of telepathic aliens who never evolved vocal chords for verbal speech visit the Enterprise. The aliens have always communicated their thoughts and feelings instantly and accurately. Everyone could see inside of everyone else’s mind and communication was flawless. They never had to worry about fumbling around with verbal communication. The Enterprise crew teaches the aliens verbal communication so that they can join the Federation. There is a moment in this episode when counselor Troi mentions a poem and this is what is said:
Maques (alien)- Please, what is a…… poem?
Counselor Troi- Poetry is an art form that uses words put together in new and unexpected ways, sometimes in rhyme.
Is that all poetry is; the grouping together of words in new ways? Is that how you would describe poetry to an alien species who had no concept of it? Would an alien species who had no verbal communication have no poetry?
I would tell them that poetry is all around us. It is in the motions of the dancer. It’s in the tune that floats through the park. It’s thoughts and feelings put down on paper, spoken out loud, sang, played, danced, performed. It is our revealing of the human condition, vulnerable to interpretation by every individual.
I would tell them that poetry is a necessary part of the human experience. It allows us to see the world as it really is. We can strip life down and critique the world around us. It allows a person to ask questions about life, love, liberty, death, remorse, ecstasy and then provides us with a way to answer those questions that we asked.
I would tell them that poetry is describing the beauty of their planet. It is the sharing of their thoughts with their significant other. It’s questioning the path in life that they have chosen. It’s the unseen particle that binds a tune together and allows you to truly feel the beat all the way down to your soul.
I agree that poetry is an art form that uses words put together in new and unexpected ways and it sometimes rhymes, but it is also so much more than that! We do not need verbal communication to experience poetry. Everyone experiences poetry. Everyone shares poetry. Some of us choose to write it down. Some of us choose to speak it. Some of us choose to sing it. Some of us choose to perform it. Some of us choose to listen to it. Some of us choose to watch it. Poetry was born the minute that man became a sentient being and had the ability to perceive the world around him, to question and to feel. The aliens had poetry all along; we just gave them a word for it.