Why is poetry important?

I suppose on the grand scale of things it could be argued that poetry isn't especially important in the world. I think it was Auden who once said that poetry has never made anything happen and it was also Dannie Abse, one of my favourite poets, who once said that poems can't be bombs - by which I always thought he meant sort of the same thing really, that poems perhaps can't have that impact in the real, everyday world. But I think on a very important, different level poetry certainly is important. I think for me it comes down to a question of empathy in that exactly like any form of written communication, in order both to write a poem and to engage in a poem you quite often have to make that empathetic leap - you have to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I think that is an amazingly important experience. It's also important I think on the level of language - a poem and poetry sort of forces language to be used at its sharpest point. I think it's incredibly important that we keep language at that edge.


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