These days, poets can’t honestly argue “Why Poetry Pays Well,” but they can truthfully defend the modest statement, “Why Poetry Matters,” as poet and teacher Jay Parini does in the June 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review. Parini's book of the same title was published this April by Yale University Press.
Poetry’s virtue, Parini writes, lies in stilling the disorder of the outside world:
We listen to the still, small voice of poetry when we read a poem, and that voice stands in ferocious contrast to the clamor in the culture at large and, often, to the sound of society's explosions. . . . [Poetry] doesn't shift the stock market or persuade dictators to stand down. It doesn't usually send masses into the streets to protest a war or petition for economic justice. It works in quieter ways, shaping the interior space of readers, adding a range of subtlety to their thoughts, complicating the world for them.