How reading poetry can help anyone to create new ideas

It’s a shame that most junior high or high school students’ introduction to poetry is usually Shakespeare and Wordsworth. So much time is spent on parsing archaic words, discussing rhyme and metre, and most people I know generally don’t like it. “How am I ever going to use this?”

Perhaps poetry instruction should start with metaphor. Metaphor is everything—to poetry and maybe even to life. Metaphor is:  “I am a rock, I am an i[iii]sland.” (A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries, you see.)

Metaphor is how we derive meaning in a difficult, unpredictable, sometimes-senseless world. We make up metaphors to help us figure out how to live. We use them as mantras and mnemonics; we save them on Pinterest and share them on Facebook; then the doing of life feels a little more comprehensible and attainable for ten minutes.

Graphic describing resilience













Thinking in metaphors helps us to be creative in everything since metaphors are connections between seemingly disparate things. If you can practice thinking in metaphors, you can make connections everywhere you go. How is this like that?

You could be at a football game, for example, and think, How is football like yearbook? There’s teamwork involved and different roles required, there’s a lot of planning required to get excellent execution. Some roles are more boring than others but the team wouldn’t function without those roles played.

You could take this metaphor further, turning it around in your head, and get a great idea for something that can help your yearbook team.

Or look at this ad from Bic:

Photo of Bic billboard ad

I imagine someone looking at a lawn, thinking how it resembled beard stubble, this ad idea naturally following.

Poetry spurs creative associations and imagination in ways that can help writers, photographers and graphic designers to create really fantastic yearbooks. Poetry also demands focus from the reader and sometimes patience as she tries to figure out all possible meanings of a word or a line. This regular exercise of focus and analysis combined with the exposure to creative associations helps boost problem solving skills. At least, that’s my theory and anecdotal experience.

For an approachable introduction to poetry driven by good metaphors, I recommend Garrison Keillor’s collection Good Poems.

Spend a couple of weeks reading some poetry and see if you aren’t more creatively inspired to the point that someone compares thee to a summer’s day, lovely and more temperate.

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