Can Poetry Save Us?

I should be sleeping. I could be, were it not for two things that have kept me up into the dark start of the new day:

  1. I finished my friend’s quilt
  2. I read a post on Facebook that won’t let me go

The post was shared by an acquaintance of mine, and it described one man’s habit of sending out postcard poems. My friend’s comment: Can Poetry Save Us? I was surprised to see that the first two responded with an emphatic “No.”

Now I am the first to admit that I am both a total idealist and a blind optimist with very strong thoughts on this very topic (note the name of my site), but since I do not know the poster well, I responded with a simple “of course it can,” but the bigger, truer answer is still spinning inside of me and it is this:

Of course it can. It must. The only antidote for destruction is creation. The only antidote for hatred is love. The only antidote for ugliness is beauty. The only antidote to war is art.

Our government is broken. Our corporations are broken. Our economy is broken. America is broken. And in deep opposition to my strong inner Pollyanna, I do not believe that they can be fixed–at least not from within. I believe that the only solution is revolution, but not the kind with bullets and guns. The revolution we need is already in progress as more and more people opt out of our consumerism-driven train wreck of a culture to focus instead on quality of life, on health, on time to grow healthy food, to cook full meals without cans, boxes, or microwaves, to say no to the mountains of waste produced daily by transforming what other people think of as garbage into usable, functional objects, by transforming it into art.

So yes, I believe poetry can save us. In fact, I believe that it is the only thing that can. And by poetry, I mean art, the act of creation, be it an actual poem, a painting, a photograph, a bracelet with a baby’s name on it, a space opera, a gadget built from discarded parts, a quilt… I have to believe. If I didn’t I could never have spent all those many hours over the last several weeks stitching my hands numb to try and make a difference in the life of a woman fighting a potentially deadly disease. I have to believe that somehow, this fabric, this thread, each thought physically sewn into the pattern–clear lungs, strong bones, body of light, surrounded by the healing power of love–chanted in my mind with each stitch, will make a difference. Because it does. I’ve seen it.

Art saves one life at a time. Start with your own, then move out from there.