The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words





– Amy Saul-Zerby


In order to explain the power of poetry to you, I need you to understand about metaphors.



It brings things to you then takes them away

It seems bottomless but is not

If you stop moving, you will sink and drown

It terrifies you.

You might write this and think you’ve come up with a clever metaphor to say something about life.  You’re wrong.  You’re still a poet, but you haven’t ‘come up with’ anything.  As a wise man once instructed you to, you’ve said something true that also floats toward heaven.  Metaphors are just truths held up to light.  Nothing more extraordinary and nothing less wonderful.  This is why everyone thinks they can write a book.  It is not that everyone can write a book.  It is that everyone is inside the same one all the time.

You also need to understand about literature.  People think there is a difference between poetry and literature.  And to them you should say ‘Yes, if by that you mean, poetry is an organ within a body and the body is literature.’  Take the most poetic lines out of the book and the rest falls flat.  The lungs would not exist without the body but I defy a human to live without lungs.  I defy literature to exist without poetry.

And yes, now I am going to tell you that poetry is a means of breathing life into fingers. And a metaphor is an underwater breathing apparatus:  the lungs are just as vital to keeping you alive but the air tank allows you to see things you couldn’t before.  It lets you to go to depths that should kill you and emerge unscathed.  And when you are back on land, the ocean still seems like a metaphor for everything, but it is somehow not scary.

You realize that the things you think it has taken away are not gone; they are just subject to the same tides as you are.  And that is not less romantic than knowing you’re looking up at the same moon — it’s the reason for the romance.  And time is not something you must drown in, and the ocean is not giving or taking, it’s just breathing.  And poetry is not giving beauty or taking it away, it’s just leading you to a place from which you can see it.

And that is why we need it.

Otherwise, the book would fall flat. Otherwise, the world might as well be in black and white for all that we would be missing.  We aren’t creating metaphors.  You see, these aren’t metaphors at all.  They’re just truths reflecting light.  Nothing more extraordinary and nothing less wonderful.


About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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This entry was posted on September 15, 2015 by in THE POWER OF POETRY and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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