"Poetry is Truth in its Sunday Clothes"


“Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.” – Joseph Roux

I’m always embarrassed to tell people that I write poetry. I’m afraid they’ll lump me into a category of people that wear thick-rimmed glasses without lenses, lament over complicated ex-relationships, expand their vocabularies exponentially in order to confound the barista taking their order (no sugar, no cream), and insist that nobody—no, nobody—will ever understand their souls. That is, in my mind, a stereotypical poet. Inaccurate, as so many stereotypes are, but I think it’s stuck in today’s society.

When people aren’t rolling their eyes at their idea of modern poets, they seem to think they are being scarred by the ancient everlasting epic poems they were forced to read and over-analyze in sophomore English, terrified of nature descriptions using more than four-syllable words to paint the trees fall colors, and nauseous at the idea of one more love poem relating hearts to flowers.

And all of this is really too bad, because poetry is incredible. Weirdness in poetry comes when the poet wants the reader to come away thinking something mysterious and wild about the poet, aka underground coffeshop girl with the fake glasses and big vocabulary. Greatness in poetry comes when the poet has some crazy idea, and just has to get it down on paper. Greatness in poetry comes when the poet notices something, and writes it down as some sort of tribute to the universe. Example: Thanks, Moab, for that crazy lightning storm last weekend. Just so you know, I appreciated it. Even if no one else did. Greatness in poetry comes when the poet touches on an eternal truth that the reader was waiting patiently to tap into. As Gustave Flaubert said, “There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.”

The stereotypes and over-analysis need to be shut away in a kitchen cupboard somewhere far away, so we can gallantly describe the universe in peace.

So I’ll say it: I’m a poet. And it’s noble, okay? I’m not a very good poet, and most of my poems lie in unfinished bunches on my hard drive, but I am making a solid attempt to put the right words on paper. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I think more people should try it. Just because poetry’s hard doesn’t mean it’s scary or bad.  


(By: Emma Hancock, BYUradio Segment Producer for "Top of Mind")