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The Effect of Poetry

Updated on February 29, 2020

Poetry, in all its forms, takes an individual to a reflective place if even for a short while. This is the primary effect poetry has, and an undeniable fact. When reading a poem, the reader thinks about what the poem means to them. Even if they do not understand the prose, they realize they lack that understanding and make the choice to interpret the poem more closely, or to abandon the work, inevitably to return to the topic at another time.

With this in mind, consider the varied works of a very well known poet - Edgar Allen Poe. Specifically, consider a poem of obvious hardship and woe, El Dorado.

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Edgar Allen Poe, by Eric Allshouse (1999)
Edgar Allen Poe, by Eric Allshouse (1999)
Edgar Allen Poe, by Eric Allshouse (1999)

What does this poem make you think? Did you feel anything when you read it?

In the first stanza of the poem, Poe brings to mind a vibrant image of a broad chested, brightly armored Knight with a cheerful countenance and a purpose which brought him joy. Never one to remain in a happy writing mode for long, the next lines shift to a more dreary, desperate feeling as the Knight is shown to have searched and searched for this fabled place - a search that has drained his body and his heart of all strength and joy.

By the end of the fourth passage, the Knight learns his path has lead him nowhere but Death. Though short, this poem creates an ambiance of despair, one which can be likened to Poe's own life. I picture Poe as the Knight, losing strength and will as his life went on, and somehow knowing he would stumble and fall at his frailest, he envisions the end of his journey leading to an endless one in the afterlife.

Poe is known for his morbid writing style, and I find his work to be a perfect example of how poetry affects each person.

Every poem affects our emotions, even in the slightest way. When you become immersed in the prose presented, you will read it a certain way, and will experience an emotion based on your interpretations.

A poem can make you laugh. Some are written just for that purpose, such as some of the works of Shel Silverstein. But, a poem can also make you angry, sad, lonely, can make you swoon or feel lost.

Truly, poets are unwitting masters of psychological warfare. How better to woo your lady love than with a poem you wrote yourself? How better to express your hatred than to do so anonymously, by creating some form of monster in an epic poem, only to defeat the monster through virtue and strength?

A poem, within it's core, is not quite the same for each individual reader. For example, having read my assessment of 'El Dorado' above, I'm sure my readers have a different thought on the work.

At the heart of it all, poetry involves emotion in equal parts. The author's feelings and meanings forming one part, and the reaction and interpretation of the readers form the other. In constant rivalry, these emotions span the whole spectrum of possibility, with the poem itself as the fulcrum and catalyst.

What do you think? Is there a poem which has struck you, emotionally? What is your favorite poem, and how does it make you feel?


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