Scholars meet to explain the significance of poetry
It was an unlikely quotation that opened Wednesday’s panel entitled “Why Poetry Matters” at the Conference on World Affairs.
“For poetry makes nothing happen,” Stuart Schoffman, a Hebrew scholar and panelist, quoted from a W.H Auden poem. “It survives in the valley of its making where executives would never want to tamper.”
Like poetry, the panelists and audience members sat in a room all their own, isolated from the heated arguments of other more politically and economically themed discussions down the hall.
As the discussion continued, though, a message of universality became the dominant theme. Instead of isolation, the panelists said they saw poetry as a means of unity, allowing everybody to relate to feelings that are universally understood.
“Poetry tells you something you know in a language you haven’t heard before,” Schoffman said.
Mohammad Mahallati, an Iranian scholar and panelist, set out to answer the question in the title of the panel, “Why is Poetry Important?”
“Poetry is not just abstract, romantic feelings,” Mahallati said. “It carries the whole weight of ethics, education and human experience.”
Mahallati said poetry is the most important aspect of Persian civilization, despite the ancient culture’s thousands of years of happenstance.
In an eclectic union of cultures, Mahallati’s Persian chants were accompanied by the “beat boxing” of the hip-hop culture, a series of drum sounds created by voice.
Shodekeh, a hip-hop artist and slam poetry musical accompanist, provided the soundtrack.
Shodekeh talked about the beauty of music as expressed through poetry.
“The musicality of poetry is a reason why it matters,” he said. “There’s an essential and powerful meditative core that’s a part of poetry. You can take judgment away from your own experiences and see it as something else.”
Christa Sanders, a high school student visiting from Colorado Springs, was one of the audience members who listened to the panelists’ introspective, personal reasons for why poetry matters.
“It was very informative, and they all voiced their ideas quite well,” Sanders said.
Mahallati said poetry has the power to simply make you feel better at times when you are “fragile and broken within.”
The vast themes of isolation and universality dominated the discussion, but self-empowerment became a third and equally important topic. Detached from the grandeur of the notion of world peace and of human understanding and enlightenment, the panelists left the audience with the very real goal of achieving piece within oneself.
Perhaps Shoffman said it best.
“Poetry reminds all of us that we have two wings,” he said. “Let’s use it.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Spencer Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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