THE POWER OF POETRY #27: Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

Poetry, like any art, is about connection, either to our inner-self or to another being. In the darkest or most joyous times of our life, everything is meaningless unless our thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires are shared and not simply reverberated back to us in an empty hall.
Let’s say one is in an empty hall, either physically or metaphorically speaking, though, during a time of great despair or joy. Let’s say in that aloneness, the only thing to do is to cry out into the void. The first thing that happens is those emotions fly back into the self, changed. They are changed for having been felt at all and when they return, they are presented much like deviant presents. What is one to do with them but share them—with the self, or the greater world?

Goethe wrote, “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”

The power of poetry is the power of human connection. That power is even more evident and necessary now in a world that may seem smaller in its village size thanks to the World Wide Web, but can actually make one feel more isolated and more insignificant.

Everyone looks their best, most of the time, when presenting their tales on social media. It is rare that the trials of the day, the littlest sounds of the smallest heartbreak are broadcasted in truth and reflection onto their public profiles. There’s nothing that can replace the very intimate moment where a reader encounters a universal moment in a poem—a moment that at once was so singular that, once transformed by the pressing in of art, can be brought to the world as one of the greatest gifts of connection.

The small space of the poem can contain very large spaces where one can reflect and expand into the most important person in the room. The one, who is heard, really understood and heard, is granted the greatest power. Having ones voice either spoken in the poem or represented in the poem, when often those in pain or suffering have no voice, can change a life. And, on the same coin, but different side, the joys of merging, birth, love, accomplishment, given the right to be celebrated and memorialized in a work of art makes the world a little lighter, a little kinder. This is the power of poetry. Giving the voice not just an echoing hall or an uninhabited garden in which to live, but the forever moment of now. The capability, timeless capability, to be present, in the moment, with everyone at once who ever lived to tell about it.


Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her manuscript was a finalist for the Levis Prize in poetry and her chapbook was recently released by Thrush Press. She is an associate poetry editor for The Boiler Journal. Her work has appeared in the following: 3:AM Magazine, Night Train, Versal,Sugar House Review, Four Way Review, among others.

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