Poetry Is A Necessity

-Garrison Keillor

Poetry is a necessity as simple as the need to be touched and similarly a need that is hard to enunciate. The intense vision and high spirits and moral grandeur [of poetry are]…needed lest we drift through our days consumed by clothing options and hair styling and whether to have the soup or the salad…

The meaning of a poem is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right…

People complain about the obscurity of poetry…but actually poetry is rather straightforward compared to ordinary conversation with people you don’t know well which tends to be jumpy repartee, crooked, coded, allusive to no effect, firmly repressed, locked up in irony, steadfastly refusing to share genuine experience…

Rarely in ordinary conversation do people speak from the heart and mean what they say. How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart?…

Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn’t matter — poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart …nobody will ever speak to you as straightforwardly and clearly as poetry does. Nobody. They don’t even try. You can lie in bed for a week getting sicker and sicker, waiting to hear one daring and heartfelt word, and it will not come…

The common life is precarious…and…the intensity of poetry, its imaginative fervor, its cadences, is meant for…people in a jam — you and me…

Perhaps you have sat in a doctor’s office listening to his spiel about leakage in the mitral valve and congestive heart disease and suddenly realized bwannggg this is your mitral valve under discussion and you are headed for a scary ride down the canyon toward surgery. A stranger will shave your private parts and anoint you with antiseptic and slide you onto a gurney and you’ll be wheeled into a chilly room with bright overhead lights and a kind lady will begin telling you about anesthesia as one would explain darkness to a small child…

Poems describe a common life. It is good to know about this…[and] take courage from [them].